A credulity-straining thriller that could be a guilty pleasure for nondiscriminating genre fans.


A millennial worker at the Chicago Board of Trade is framed for murder in this conspiracy thriller.

Christian Roberts, 28, an aspiring broker, is working his way up the ladder as a phone clerk for a commodities firm. No sooner does he escape an inexplicable attempt on his life than he finds his billionaire boss and mentor murdered and himself the prime suspect. On the run, he fortuitously gets into a cab driven by a man whose son leads Strong and Associates, a covert squad of former members of the FBI, Secret Service, and the CIA. Think The A-Team crossed with Olivia Pope’s gladiators on the TV show Scandal. They’re “the best in the world,” says leader John Strong Jr., and they take Roberts into protective custody to solve the billionaire’s murder. The title of Force’s debut novel is woefully generic (it presumably refers to next year’s presidential race) for what’s essentially the origin story of how callow youth Roberts joins forces with Strong and Associates, setting the stage for a possible series. A sequel would benefit from a greater attention to detail. As a writer of thrillers, Force would do well to take his cue from Strong, who “never used five words when three would suffice.” The author subverts potentially potent action scenes, as when Roberts, fleeing for his life from the assassin, digresses to ruminate about the 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life. Some readers may find two key players, clearly based on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, to be laughable. Here, the first African-American president is blackmailed with a videotape of a gay sex orgy featuring himself (“the worst possible nightmare for any sitting president,” the author notes). Meanwhile, Abigail Mason, the secretary of state and likely presidential candidate, seems to embody every negative Hillary Clinton stereotype. The story has a climactic revelation, however, that gets points for its sheer shock value.

A credulity-straining thriller that could be a guilty pleasure for nondiscriminating genre fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-61-562976-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Lone Star Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

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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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