TELLER

A NOVEL

Biographies are as telling as clues in this smartly written debut mystery set in California wine country.

Ghostwriter Charlie Teller ought to recognize a fall from grace when he sees one. Celebrities, artists and athletes who’d flown high only to crash and burn had been Charlie’s bread-and-butter, at least until personal scandal abruptly punctuated his own career and turned his marriage into a dangling modifier. But the murder of Santa Rosa restaurateur and health-club owner Paul Barkley requires deep background sleuthing, and Charlie has the chops for the job. He found the body, after all. Plus there’s that memory stick Paul passed to Charlie on the night of the murder, containing a mysterious spreadsheet, and it was Paul who introduced Charlie to Rajiv Patel, a construction mogul in search of a memoirist, on whose estate Teller now lives and writes. Local detective Eddie Mahler suspects Charlie has unauthorized dirt on Paul, and he’s not far off. Complicating the picture is Paul’s fiancée Page, a fitness instructor who may have private exercise plans for Charlie, and Kenny McDonald, reclusive ex–front man for a famed ’60s band and the local poster boy for lawyers, guns and money. When Charlie teams with a neo-bohemian masseuse from Paul’s health club and her former–Special Forces beau for some legwork, there will be blood. The brisk action gets interrupted by a series of digressions in which Charlie reflects on his past books. These are strong stories, with thoughtful accounts of the ghostwriter’s craft and the hazards of success and failure, but at times they feel too deep for this otherwise well-coiled suspense, especially when Teller’s richly drawn celebrity subjects threaten to eclipse the book’s main cast. Nonetheless, Weisel writes with aplomb and has solid grasp of the genre. A keen sense of redemption pervades, along with elegant echoes of Chandler and MacDonald. A sophisticated, literary whodunit that proves lives are harder to solve than crimes.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2011

ISBN: 978-1457506376

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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