WALKING THE CAT BY TOMMY 'TIP' PAINE

Batchelor's second volume-written in a style as frantic as a morning DJ's-in a projected quartet of fast-paced tales about spy-writer Tommy ``Tip'' Paine (Gordon Liddy is My Muse, 1990). Here, Paine (``thinking like a make-believe cowboy'') gets involved in an Asian money war when Charlie Purcells, a neighbor, comes to him for help. Purcells is being blackmailed, he claims, by South Korean gangsters: long ago, he says, when he has a Spec. 4, he sold information. Sister-in-law Lila (of ``many and varied personalities'') has been paying off the gangsters, but Charlie's in too deep. Paine, ``an artist in the league of Greene, MacArthur and Eastwood all at once,'' decides to enter the fray and ``walk the cat''-i.e., ``find a fixed point and work forward and backward.'' In so doing, he moves from New York to Singapore to Seoul and points in between, tracking down clues and potential suspects: Raj, Lila's old lover, seems implicated; and Rosie, at first a sexy, innocent governess, turns out to be an operative of the Korean CIA. The plot quickly deteriorates into an out-and-out parody, boxes opening into boxes, until everyone is a suspect, and everyone is somehow guilty. Charlie, it turns out, is trying to ``run a sting operation on everybody,'' and even Paine is double-dealing once he hooks up with two agents from the US Military Intelligence Corps. Once the dust has settled, including poisonings and murders, the South Korean government is the revealed culprit, having used Charlie before flushing him out. In the end, a sort of nihilism wins the day-''The devil does what he wants stupidly, brutally, senselessly.'' A clever hoot-something like a cross between Murder, She Wrote and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-70884-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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