A well-written and intriguing mystery; readers should look forward to the hero’s further adventures.

DEAD IN TANGIER

A CAPTAIN EQUI MYSTERY

On the eve of the Spanish Civil War, an Italian detective in Morocco investigates a series of crimes in this debut historical novel.

In 1936, Capt. Faustino Equi, 36, has been sent to Tangier on a year’s exile from Italy, where he’s served in the carabinieri following his army stint in World War I. Equi has made life difficult for himself in Mussolini’s Italy by opposing Fascism, which he hopes to keep on doing in the Tangier International Zone, administered by France, Spain, Britain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands. But, as he learns from his boss, the Scottish Chief Inspector Inman, directives called “Tangier rules” apply. These include leaving alone Jews, homosexuals, and others targeted by Fascist leaders but, most importantly, “we keep arrests to a minimum and sort things out best we can,” protecting the zone’s reputation and stability. Both are threatened when a European woman’s body is found “wrapped in copper wire, doused in petrol and burned—perhaps alive.” A Spanish man’s dramatic suicide and confession seem to solve the crime. Equi doubts it’s that simple, especially after a second suicide (or murder?) of a retired Spanish officer, but Tangier rules forbid him from properly investigating. The stubborn Equi, whose aristocratic family motto is “Surrender everything but honour,” nevertheless persists, helped by some allies. But just as Equi is unraveling the final threads, Franco touches off the Spanish Civil War. In his series opener, Hughes makes excellent use of place, history, and character to tell a moving story that goes deeper than crime-solving. Tangier of 1936 comes alive in his telling, with its tangle of cultures, languages, people, and neighborhoods. It’s a fine metaphor for moral ambiguity, summed up by Tangier rules, a phrase so central that it should be the book’s title. Equally well-drawn are the tale’s characters, particularly Equi, who has a complicated past that includes an English mother, an abusive father, and a wife who died 15 years previously. But the novel would benefit from streamlining some of its slowly developed revelations.

A well-written and intriguing mystery; readers should look forward to the hero’s further adventures.

Pub Date: April 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984196-21-7

Page Count: 486

Publisher: Stonesong Digital Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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