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

ISBN: 978-1479276158

Page Count: 430

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2013

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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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