HOUSE OF SMOKE

A gritty and gripping sins-of-the-fathers tale from Freedman (Against the Wind, 1991, etc.), who this time puts a couple of memorably gutsy ladies center stage. Having resigned from the Oakland PD after being involved in a hostage crisis that left three people dead, Kate Blanchard divorces her brutally abusive husband (a fellow cop) and moves to Santa Barbara in search of a fresh start. With wise counsel from a retired investigator whose practice she takes over, the 40ish Kate sets up shop as a p.i. Retained by wealthy young Laura Sparks to probe the apparent suicide of Frank Bascombe, who died in the local jail while awaiting arraignment on drug charges, the fledgling sleuth soon learns she may be out of her depth. In addition to being Laura's lover, Bascombe was foreman at the vast ranch owned by the Sparks family, and the old-money clan wants to put a quick lid on his death for fear it could sully their good name. Particularly keen on keeping Kate at bay is Miranda Sparks, Laura's mother. A calculating sexual predator who takes her pleasures where she finds them (thanks to the impotence of a beloved but feckless husband), Miranda has been entrusted by matriarch Dorothy with the stewardship of the family's presumably substantial holdings. But undaunted by pointed warnings and a severe beating, Kate keeps digging. She finally discovers that Miranda is, literally, in bed with the representative of an international oil company that wants to slant-drill into the scenic channel—anathema in environmentally correct Santa Barbara. Kate also identifies other players with sinister agendas of their own. The case she would not drop eventually resolves itself in a shocking, violent, and cathartic climax. Plucky Kate and lusty Miranda are irresistible creations in their absorbing if occasionally melodramatic duel, set in an agreeably complex coastal eden: an immensely entertaining read. (Literary Guild featured alternate)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-670-85347-X

Page Count: 410

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more