More polished than this popular author’s usual (A Moment in Time, 2001, etc.), but still with plenty of sweaty sex for the...

Wronged wife vs. beautiful mistress. And the winner is . . . .

Carolina Mountcastle designs fantasies in flowers for New York’s super-rich, has a devoted clientele, a nice teenaged son, and darling Lyon, her studly, muscular, and very successful husband. Her claim to fame: replicating the lavish floral arrangements in Dutch Old Master paintings, a skill that keeps the nouveaux riche coming back for more. When a new client specifies blood-red roses to match the dripping gore in a Caravaggio painting of a beheading, Carolina is on it—with help from her muscular assistant Antonio, who really knows his stuff even if he spends too much time on the phone with various girlfriends. But a rival designer, pouty Payton Fitzsimmons, schemes to seduce Antonio so she can steal Carolina’s ideas and sabotage her fabulous creations. Now that Lyon is abroad on business, Carolina will have to figure out for herself why everything’s going wrong. Then—oh, no!—a call from the Amsterdam police shatters her world. Lyon is dead of a heart attack. The family gathers for the reading of his will, and Carolina is aghast to hear that Lyon has divided his fortune neatly between her and beautiful, blond Monique, the Amsterdam mistress she never knew he was keeping—and with whom, it turns out, he had daughter. Sunk in despair, Carolina vows to challenge the will and cut out this pretender, but her nice son intervenes: Apparently he’s always wanted a little sister, and he’s eager to meet Anja and her mother. Carolina kicks up a fuss but eventually goes along with him and meets the other woman. The tale quickly reaches its happy ending in a cathartic snifflefest for Lyon’s two loves; Payton’s mischief is revealed, Carolina is hailed as the next Martha Stewart—and a new love awaits her.

More polished than this popular author’s usual (A Moment in Time, 2001, etc.), but still with plenty of sweaty sex for the fans.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2002

ISBN: 0-525-94659-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002



The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000



The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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