An engaging, slow-burning political mystery set in Manila.

Murillo's Million

Holm details the convoluted dealings of a Filipino politician in this debut novel.

Manuel Murillo has experienced a setback. “A congressman for nine years, with business interests in coconut oil, provincial bus lines, and property, Murillo was in his late sixties and no longer the strong man he had once been.” He has recently lost a senatorial election that should have been his. What’s more, he’s been contacted by a mysterious priest who seems to know a lot about Murillo’s past dealings. Meeting at a restaurant in Manila, the priest outlines a peculiar crisis at a shipping company in distant Norway, where a businessman has disappeared after transferring $1 million to the Filipino capital. The money is unaccounted for. Murillo knows that the funds—a kickback—had been meant to help him with his campaign. What he doesn’t know is why the priest keeps bringing up a teenage former mistress of Murillo’s from more than 20 years ago: a girl he put on a bus to Santa Rita but who apparently never arrived there. “Every day in every town in this country of ours, the rich and powerful take advantage of the less fortunate,” the enigmatic priest reminds Murillo. “I know only too well.” Holm unfolds his mystery through the meandering, detail-savoring narrative of the priest, while the reader sits, like Murillo, wondering where the tale is headed and what it all means. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, this rambling account might be frustrating, but Holm’s textured prose summons the energy and fatigue of the priest in such a way that it keeps the reader drifting forward with unsuspecting mirth. The true pleasure of the novel is the atmosphere, rendered in a language that evokes Manila’s chaotic fullness while still hinting at its ghosts: “The swell of people and vehicles rolled slowly southward, but the flood was smaller now because the commuters had started to trickle away into the dark landscape.” The intrigue is just serpentine enough to feel realistic, and while the conclusion is less than earth-shattering, the experience is more than satisfactory.

An engaging, slow-burning political mystery set in Manila.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5188-2714-3

Page Count: 214

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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