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HARBOR

Perhaps not a book to read by the seashore, if you’re literal-minded. A spooky pleasure, expertly told.

Scandinavian writers dominate the police-procedural genre. Are they now bent on taking over horror? Swedish creepmeister Lindqvist is hot on the case.  

The author of one of the scariest vampire novels to have come out in years, Let Me In (2007) (film version Let the Right One In), Lindqvist drifts squarely into Stephen King territory with his latest—which, it seems, is a bit of a roman à clef, reflecting the author’s childhood in a Stockholm housing development on the edge of the city. So it is with Domarö, an island not far from the Swedish capital where hoary old fishermen mend their nets and rough-edged yokels sharpen their knives, even as smart urbanites zip about in their fine cars and well-made clothes. One of those city slickers, a pensive fellow named Anders, suffers a terrible blow when his daughter, Maja, sees something mysterious, goes to have a look and disappears. “She was good at finding places to hide,” Anders reasons at first. “Although she could be over-excited and eager in other situations, when she was playing hide and seek she could keep quiet and still for any length of time.” Well, this is a very serious game of hide and seek indeed, for others on this island have gone missing, too—boatloads of them, with cases of schnapps as a gift to the critters that dwell in the spectral Baltic waters. Will Anders ever find his daughter? Perhaps, perhaps not—and therein hangs the tale. Lindqvist ventures on heavy-handedness by introducing a character who, a touch too conveniently, happens to be a retired magician with a trick up his sleeve (or, more to the point, in his matchbox) and lots of wisdom to dispense. In the main, though, he capably keeps his story far from the usual splatterfest slasher stuff and instead holds it to the confines of psychological thriller, which is plenty spooky enough, atmospheric and foreboding: “There is a film of moisture over everything and water drips from the leaves of the trees, as if this island has risen from the sea just to meet him.”

Perhaps not a book to read by the seashore, if you’re literal-minded. A spooky pleasure, expertly told.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-68027-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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