Solidly written, earnest suspense that isn’t exactly suspenseful, though the family is well-drawn and convincing....


Troy Kirkwood, loving son and devoted single father, disappears without a trace.

Nola, Troy’s mother, is baffled by—and Roy, his father, infuriated at—Detective Lopez’s suggestion that his son abandoned his child Meika, age five, at a Brooklyn Heights movie theater before he vanished. Troy would never do something like that, and Roy thinks he was somehow lured outside. The theater manager confirms this theory: Troy went out to check on his car alarm. But his car disappeared too, and there are no witnesses. Nola does her best to comfort little Meika and to keep Meika’s mother, Cordelia, a recovering crack addict, at bay. When Troy’s body is found, shot in the chest and head, the Kirkwood family nearly falls apart. Cordelia shows up in Family Court, demurely dressed in suit and pearls, and pleads her case to a judge who seems inclined to rule in her favor, even though it’s clear to everyone else that she’s lying. Nola doesn’t know what to do next—the thought of losing her beloved granddaughter to a no-account ex-junkie like Cordelia terrifies her. Vann, her other son, comes up from Atlanta to do some investigating on his own. Meanwhile, Roy blames Detective Lopez for the delays and misunderstandings, and Lopez grows increasingly testy when Roy points out that someone ran up thousands of dollars on Troy’s American Express card—after his death. Looks like a credit-card scam turned into murder. Back at the apartment, Nola just knows that Cordelia is going to be after Troy’s insurance money, not to mention Meika’s Social Security check. Finally, a witness comes forth with a description of a tall man in black leather. The trail will take a few twists and turns before the perps are identified at last.

Solidly written, earnest suspense that isn’t exactly suspenseful, though the family is well-drawn and convincing. Third-novelist Mallette also wrote Shades of Jade (2001).

Pub Date: June 18, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-75744-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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