An undemanding murder story reinforced by superlative characters who need not even leave the bar.

READ REVIEW

The Italian Club

A MYSTERY NOVEL BASED ON A REAL PLACE

Members of a Pennsylvania social club find themselves at risk when a motorcycle gang rides into town in search of a sizable stash in this thriller.

Two bikers walking into the Italian-American Club in Oxton definitely stand out. Bartender Kimmy can serve only club members and signed-in guests. Furthermore, the men, looking for just-out-of-prison Pasquale “Pazz” Vukovic, belligerently demand drinks before finally leaving. Pazz, as it happens, using information from his dying cellmate, is after loot reputedly hidden somewhere in the club. Around the same time, Speedy, having recently lost his job as a maintenance man, inadvertently trips the club’s alarm early one morning. Joe Lorenzo, editor-reporter of a local weekly, thinks Speedy was the inside man for an attempted break-in. Things get more suspicious when Speedy turns up in a creek with a bullet hole in his head. Convinced the cops aren’t interested in solving the murder, Joe, a former investigative reporter, starts his own probe. Complicating matters is another bartender, Tracy, who’s harassed by both her pre-prison boyfriend, Pazz, and rich ex Derek. There are also those bikers, the Death Dealers, four in all, who’ve been frequenting bars in the area, asking about Pazz. Murders, meanwhile, continue, making it abundantly clear that someone’s willing to kill to get what he or she wants. Business author Cox’s (Hanging Fire, 2014, etc.) first foray into thriller territory is surprisingly lighthearted, notwithstanding spurts of violence; readers witness at least one shooting that’s chilling in its terseness. The characters and club setting, however, are so richly detailed that they feel warmly familiar. Moments like patrons at the bar with piles of cash in front of them (to avoid “fumbling with wallets”) are comical high points. The mystery is minimal, with just one truly unknown element—whether or not the dough is actually in the club. But trepidation in the final act is thoroughly elevated, putting several lives, including Joe’s, in peril. There are far too many excellent, well-rounded characters to list, all with their personal back stories. But Joe’s potential love interest, Annette, is memorable, caring for her dementia-ridden mother with no help from her sister Darbie, who revels in telling everyone her sibling’s probably a lesbian.

An undemanding murder story reinforced by superlative characters who need not even leave the bar.

Pub Date: March 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5305-9919-6

Page Count: 294

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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