An action-packed thriller, marred by a lumbering plot and mechanical prose.

The Legend of Imogene Byrne

A real estate agent is unwittingly drawn into a murder mystery that involves political intrigue in this debut novel.

Imogene Byrne is a controversial woman in the small town of Conrad: twice widowed, with both of her former husbands dying under circumstances considered by many suspicious, and both leaving her considerable life insurance payouts. She runs a successful real estate firm and raises two sons—one from each of her marriages—and regularly rails against what she perceives as the decline of the country into complacency and mediocrity. She even establishes an organization—St. Jude Today—designed to draw attention to her remarkably broad and shrill caterwauls of complaint. A local religious leader—Bishop Daniel B. Lamping— dies suddenly of what seems to be natural causes, but his personal physician, Sawyer Paine, suspects that an insect bite on the bishop’s arm was actually caused by a tiny dart allegedly used in CIA assassinations. Paine’s only real evidence for that fantastical conclusion is his recollection of the dart’s discussion during Senate hearings in the 1970s. Meanwhile, a trio of outlaws kidnaps Imogene and her son Connor to extract a significant ransom. Their plan is thwarted by Imogene’s other son, Carl—a police officer—and it turns out one of the perpetrators is responsible for the murder of Bishop Lamping, contracted by an ex-CIA operative. The FBI opens an investigation into the matter. McGrath flashes back to Bishop Lamping’s life to slowly—the pace of the book is akin to a leisurely stroll—furnish insight into why he came to be a target for assassination in the first place. The plot suffers no shortage of action, though it does splinter under the weight of both implausibility and convolution. In addition, the dialogue is halting and leaden. Consider this line delivered by Connor regarding his upcoming vacation with Imogene: “ ‘Mother, I know you well enough to know that our visit to these locations will be worth our time from a purely personal enjoyment standpoint,’ Connor answered while chuckling.” No one talks like that in real life, but everyone does in McGrath’s novelistic cosmos.

An action-packed thriller, marred by a lumbering plot and mechanical prose.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5393-5120-7

Page Count: 370

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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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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