Dark, enthralling examination of a murderer and his victims, even those who survive.

GARDEN OF LOCUSTS

In Ruby’s (Weeping Water, 2016) thriller, twin brothers’ lives are irrevocably changed when they cross paths with a serial killer.

When their parents separate in 1976, Ben and Owen Hood leave their Nashville home with their mom, Karen. The teenagers quickly adapt to and cherish Karen’s family farm in Alabama. But things take a frightening turn when they explore a cornfield, though Ben’s secret purpose is tracking a mysterious set of footprints. The brothers unfortunately encounter and flee from Eli Crisp, a serial killer who’s evaded authorities for years. Eli captures but doesn’t immediately kill them. After Ben and Owen attempt an escape, only one brother gets away, leaving Eli to abscond with his remaining captive. Meanwhile, Simon Singleton, a detective and British expat in Montana, is obsessed with identifying the serial killer. But he can’t even convince his superiors that one exists, as Eli’s M.O. involves seemingly random victims. When certain the killer is in Alabama, Simon asks for time off and heads south. Determined to put a face and a name to the serial murderer, he may have an ally in the Hood brother who got away, as both of them believe the other twin is still alive and under the thumb of a dangerous, prolific killer. Ruby’s lengthy novel covers years that ultimately reach the 1980s. It’s ample space for meticulous character development, including backstory about Eli’s troubled childhood and the brothers’ relationships with their often indifferent father. The story astutely addresses issues of racism, as, it seems, cops aren’t searching for Eli’s captive because the twins, like Simon, are black. Eli is terrifying, primarily due to his calculatedness; he wants to be famous and, on learning that Simon is pursuing him, taunts the detective with a signed letter promising another murder. Disappointingly, female characters merely help to drive the male-dominated storylines (as romantic interests, for example); tenacious, shrewd Karen is an exception. Overall, Ruby’s unadorned writing unflinchingly befits the story’s frequent bleakness while allowing for humor, such as a recurring joke involving people who think expat Simon’s lilt is Australian.

Dark, enthralling examination of a murderer and his victims, even those who survive.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-65377-366-4

Page Count: 475

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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