A sharp, contemporary crime novel with classic genre elements.

KISS THE DEVIL GOOD NIGHT

In Woods’ (Phone Call From Hell And Other Tales of the Damned, 2014, etc.) noirish tale, a just-paroled convict goes after two women whose double cross led to his imprisonment.

When the recession forces Atlanta-based war veteran Bill Derringer into a 14-week furlough from his job as a waste-management truck driver, he and his wife, Edie, find themselves short on both cash and entertainment. She suggests a trip to Orlando, Florida, to see a murder trial, so they pack up their clothes and their two kids and head south. They crash at Edie’s cousin Ida’s place, but it isn’t long before the unemployed “Aunt Ida,” as she’s called, proposes robbing a local guns-and-ammo show. Derringer is surprised to learn that Edie and Aunt Ida have been lovers since high school, and after the robbery, he finds out that Aunt Ida’s plan to escape to Mexico City with the loot doesn’t include him. He winds up in prison for the heist, while the two women vanish. Five-and-a-half years later, he reports to a Miami halfway house, initially invested in finding his estranged children. But he soon makes tracks for Mexico City. Along the way, he becomes a courier for a mysterious suitcase that once belonged to Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs, and even agrees to infiltrate a drug cartel for an unspecified U.S. agency—but his true goal is revenge. Woods’ story has several pulp-fiction trademarks, including a slew of seedy characters and plenty of sex and violence. But the book isn’t as hard-boiled as readers may anticipate. For every brazen simile (“The afternoon sun beat down like a dominatrix in a sweat”), narrator Derringer drops a line that’s endearing or sentimental, as when he recalls when he and Edie “smooched and groped each other like movie matinee lovers.” Although the perpetually gruff protagonist is a hard man to like, he enjoyably teams up with fellow halfway house resident Jane Ryder, who’s equally cynical but also whip-smart and reliable. A gleefully convoluted final act includes Nazis, unexpected deaths, and an over-the-top villainous plot.

A sharp, contemporary crime novel with classic genre elements.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-8-28-355028-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: 280 Steps

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2017

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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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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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