A gripping and intelligently executed political drama.


In this debut thriller, a college professor stumbles on a plot to rig an American presidential election. 

The presidential contest in 2016 is vertiginously close, and Diane Redmond becomes the first female occupant of the Oval Office, narrowly winning by four electoral votes. Matthew Yamashita is a political science graduate student in Seattle conducting a national demographic survey of all the Electoral College voters, the subject of his dissertation under his adviser, professor Duncan Calder. Matthew begins to discover some statistical anomalies: there’s an unusually high number of electors turning up dead during the election, all of them Democrats, all of them in states dominated by Democratic voters and without laws constraining faithless electors. He decides to call an old classmate who became a journalist about his findings; the reporter suspiciously turns up dead immediately after. Matthew then sends his research to Calder, but the grad student also dies, in a hit-and-run incident while riding his bicycle. Calder, initially skeptical about Matthew’s conspiratorial conclusions, becomes frightened after someone vandalizes his office and attempts to break into his home. He calls a former graduate student, Imogen Trager, an FBI agent already investigating voting irregularities in Illinois. Trager arranges for Calder to meet James Novaczeck, Redmond’s campaign manager, but he’s assassinated before the meeting takes place, making the professor seem like a prime suspect. Unsure how far the conspiracy has spread, Trager and Calder find themselves on the run, trying to solve the case and save their lives. In his novel, the first installment of a series, McCrone renders the unlikely in tantalizingly plausible strokes. The plot pulses ahead rapidly, and its dramatic march finds a climactic conclusion in under 200 pages. In addition, the author affectingly depicts the blooming romance between Trager and Calder, both lonely, frustrated souls who have too often sought solace in their careers. (At one point, the professor recalls: “Imogen’s voice often drifted to him, like a half-remembered scent on the air. The coolness of that voice, its dusky lilt haunted him.”) The entire book hinges on an explanation of the byzantine Electoral College, something McCrone manages to supply in mercifully clear prose that never devolves into dry, textbook-style exposition. 

A gripping and intelligently executed political drama. 

Pub Date: March 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-79783-9

Page Count: 216

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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