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MENTAL CASE

The fourth case for Lt. Ben Tolliver, about linked murders in Manhattan, as Harvey attempts to upgrade his series begun with the overly predictable The Headsman (1991). A beautiful, wealthy blond walks into a jewelry store, asks to see a $100,000 necklace, then shoots the jeweler, his security guard, a customer, and finally herself. Reviewing the store's videotape, Tolliver can't find anything to go on besides the woman's unearthly calmness. The medical examiner eventually finds a Prozac-like substance (fluoxetine) in her blood, though that's a mere mood-enhancer. Then there are two more mysterious murders in the Village, on two different nights, as a young man walks up to a visitor, then to an antiques dealer, and stabs each to death through the breastbone. Some yellow capsules found by one of the bodies points to the same Prozac-derivative. Though Tolliver runs into blind alleys for over half the novel, the reader is introduced to Dr. Jonas Drang, a psychiatrist with a secret cellar lab for research on psychopharmaceuticals who has whipped up a swell new antidepressant made from rats' brain cells—but can't get the dosage right. The drug boosts the taker's confidence hugely, granting an amazing calm, but also releases the aggressiveness inherent in Dr. Drang's outsized Norwegian rats, mammals second in intelligence only to monkeys. When he does get it right, he'll go to Switzerland (he's already buying a house there) and give Eli Lilly a run for its money. Fact is, Dr. Drang's real objective is a drug that will allow armies to build up cadres of superbly aggressive soldiers. When Tolliver eventually gets too close to Dr. Drang, the good doctor gets in touch with his Village stabber. This fails, but Tolliver at last winds up bound in Dr. Drang's black-out cellar, being eaten alive by hungry rats . . . . Credible policework and fantasy sex give way to comic-book grue. Even so, a distinct series improvement.

Pub Date: April 25, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14014-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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