Sadomasochistic shivers about an incarnate Aztec goddess and the spell she casts over six North Carolina yuppies. Paperback horror novelist Watkins writes well in his first hardcover, but you practically have to sponge away the blood to make out the words. Watkins is especially good at setting the story's theme—that there can be a potent link between pain and erotic pleasure. Here, the pleasure is provided for Sam Leo, an epidemiologist, by the exotic Selinde Lorona, a remarkably beautiful and self-possessed young woman who gives him her phone number when they first meet, by chance—and who is, as we know from a prologue set in 1518, the fleshy form of the Aztec goddess Cihuacoatl, the ``Snake Woman.'' Though Sam—hitherto faithful to his wife, Cheryl—is reluctant to call, his lust bests him and he meets Selinde at a restaurant where, in a scene of genuine sensual power, she introduces him to the seductive agony of hot chili peppers—a lesson intensified the next day as she bathes his body in burning pepper oil, which he loves. Meanwhile, Cheryl's pal Stephanie Dixon buys a mysterious kaleidoscope whose violent, pre-Colombian images enchant her and her husband, Art, into ever-rougher sex; and, at the same time, Sam becomes aware of a rash of stabbing-murders in which the victims submitted without a struggle—with the path of the killings leading to the coastal town where Sam, Cheryl, Stephanie, Art, and a third couple go for their annual vacation. There, in an isolated beachhouse, the kaleidoscope lures the couples into a crescendo of extravagant—and graphical detailed—acts of group sex, flagellation, piercing, and finally, stabbings...with Selinde hovering in the background, smiling her killer Mona Lisa smile. Worth a try, though it might be wise to call it quits after the hot chili peppers.

Pub Date: May 14, 1993

ISBN: 0-88184-929-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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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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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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