Klingler (Rats, 2014) offers a techno-thriller about digital music piracy and the people it affects most.
Detective Qigiq is visiting San Francisco to help investigate a crime that’s a bit more modern than those in his native rural Alaska. He’s partnered with Detective Kandy Dreeson to investigate a box containing severed fingers that Robina, a music student, received in the mail. The digits are sealed in a plastic bag with a sticker reading, “Don't Steal Music.” Robina says the fingers belong to her roommate, Sally Bellowi, a cellist in the string quartet Fourtunate. In their quest to find the missing Sally, the detectives investigate her many lovers, including a music professor, a rock guitarist, and a man called “Mony,” among others. Elsewhere, in northern California, Eddy Blake, the CEO of a company called Silver Platter, struggles to successfully launch Invisible Hand—software that can scan a computer for illegally downloaded music and then frighten or embarrass the “file-sharer” into never doing so again. Just as he prepares to release it onto the Internet, YouTube footage appears of Sally, his ex-lover—gagged, terrified and likely being raped. Qigiq and Kandy fear that Sally’s kidnapper will finish her off and then choose a new victim. Klingler makes supreme use of his tech knowledge in a grisly mystery that strives to address the ethics of content ownership. His effortlessly clever prose makes the subject thoroughly entertaining, as in a line describing a lawyer as “so uptight he squeaked coming through the door.” The author’s awe of musicians is also apparent: “She played...faster and harder, louder, two notes at a time, the energy filling his ears, her raw beauty filling his eyes.” Unfortunately, for every instance of such respect, there are several that highlight the book’s guys-only tone, in which women are casually objectified: “Eddy…watched as the kid couldn’t resist the opportunity to twist his big neck around and ogle Alicia’s rear as he passed….Eddy didn’t much care if the kid looked, he was just jealous he wasn’t getting that view.” Readers may be surprised to see such a thoughtful, well-constructed tale lower itself to keep certain readers’ attention.

A smart but indulgently sexual thriller.

Pub Date: March 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1941156032

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Cartosi LLC

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2014

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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