An entertaining mystery, although not one for the gun-shy.

THE MARKSMAN'S CASE

Classy ex-classics professor Bertrand McAbee and his multicultural mystery-solving posse go the distance with a former military sniper turned vigilante in the fourth book of McCaffrey’s (A Byzantine Case, 2010, etc.) reliable detective series.

After a failed black op in Kuwait circa 2006, the arrogant, unstable Marine Sergeant Alex Love finally snaps. The sharpshooter’s increasingly violent outbursts result in a full honorable discharge at 100-percent disability for psychiatric reasons. Love’s career and reputation are ruined, and the rest of his life is, too, since he knows far too much about American covert activities in the Middle East to ever be free of government surveillance. So he decides to “die”—if only statistically. The calm yet delusional veteran carefully crafts an array of false identities before faking his death and becoming an avenging angel on a mission to rid the world of lowlife scum—including assorted criminals and pretty much anyone else he dislikes. Unlike the real-life, random 2002 Beltway sniper attacks, which this story in some ways recalls, Love specifically (and literally) targets his kills. By the novel’s midpoint, Love has 99 notches in his rifle’s stock and the police haven’t a clue. Enter professor-turned-PI McAbee, at the behest of a staple of detective fiction: a grieving widow. With his diverse crew of allies backing him up, each with useful skills involving brains, brawn and/or technological savvy, McAbee is soon on the trail of the assassin. Aficionados of the genre will adore the author’s clever handling of familiar tropes (including, for example, his depiction of a nerdy genius character with limited social skills). One highlight is the sassy, steely Augusta Satin, the canny detective’s protégé and possible love interest; with her on the scene, it’s easy to miss the multimillion-dollar cache of blood diamonds that becomes the focus of the plot.

An entertaining mystery, although not one for the gun-shy.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-1438932651

Page Count: 328

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2013

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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