by John J. Gaynard ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 23, 2012
France’s fictionalized political problems prove interesting, but the novel needs stronger writing and characterization.
Gaynard dissects France’s political corruption in his novel about a police investigation into the murder of a young woman used as a sex toy by French political leaders.
Hardened Irish police detective Timothy O’Mahony investigates the murder of a young African woman after her mutilated body washes up on the Irish coast. Turns out that she disappeared from a luxury yacht chartered by a man vying to be the next French president. The purported reason for the trip was so the candidate could discuss campaign strategies with his advisors. In reality, the trip was an excuse to indulge in wild orgies, and O’Mahony must separate the culprit from the mass of suspects. In Paris, coverups and threats abound as the political rivals and competing police forces try to outdo each other; each proclaims they’re acting “for the good of France.” Gaynard’s (The Imitation of Patsy Burke, 2011, etc) novel examines the corruption and cynical exploitation of former French colonies, as well as France’s role in encouraging the chaos and savagery in the Congo to keep control of raw material supplies. The author’s knowledge of the political and legal systems often verges on political philosophy. Says a puzzled Congo politician, “Why is it only Africans that are charged by the International Criminal Court? Why don’t American or British leaders like Bush and Blair get hauled up?” Not-so-veiled references to Nicolas Sarkozy and Dominique Strauss-Kahn further connect the novel to contemporary French issues. These insights and unusual perspectives would be welcome as a backdrop to the overall narrative; the trouble is, the politics overwhelm the storytelling. Just when O’Mahony begins to develop a personality, other threads intrude. The novel could also do without tedious descriptions of mundane chores, such as taking showers and opening doors.France’s fictionalized political problems prove interesting, but the novel needs stronger writing and characterization.
Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012
Page Count: 430
Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2013
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
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
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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