A polemical novel about the creeping influence of government in people’s lives.

The Dutch Institute

Scheming bureaucrats line their pockets while denying people much-needed medical care in this high-stakes debut thriller.

Maarten Keyser has terminal cancer. Yet even though he’s a doctor with the Care Authority Institute—the government agency that regulates health care in the Netherlands—he can’t get the treatment he needs. That’s because the heavily regulated Dutch medical system routinely denies him and other patients experimental drugs that could save their lives. Maarten and his wife, Shifrah, a fiery ex-Mossad agent, set out to change that. But as they attempt to expose the “mega fraud” underlying the Dutch health care system—including insider trading that’s made Stronghold, the Institute’s director, rich—they become ensnared in a deadly international conspiracy that stretches from Amsterdam to Boston, Zurich and beyond. This slim novel will surely raise the hackles of anyone who fears socialized medicine, as it offers a dystopian vision of a society where treatments are parceled out according to arbitrary government standards, not patient needs, and where doctors providing alternative medicine are denounced in the press and hounded by government officials. Some readers will cheer the righteous, impulsive Shifrah and the more cautious, conciliatory Maarten as they strive to expose the government’s slogan of “the best healthcare for everyone” as a lie. However, the novel poorly explains the details of the conspiracy, and its economical writing style leaves little room for character development—especially with such a large cast of key players, including Dmitry Gritsin, a conniving Russian oligarch who believes “there’s a mountain of money to be made in high-class healthcare,” and Dick Admiral, a U.S. Secret Service agent tasked with silencing anyone who speaks out against the Institute. Often, the author seems more interested in making political points than in the finer points of character and plot. That said, there are some edge-of-your seat action sequences, including a shootout on a boat and a dramatic kidnapping. Readers may find the novel’s resolution, however, less than satisfying.

A polemical novel about the creeping influence of government in people’s lives.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481782289

Page Count: 198

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2013

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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