Vibrant imagery and an entertaining plot ending with a most unexpected twist.


An alchemist and first-century amateur sleuth returns and must rescue a kidnapped friend in the fifth installment in Trop’s (The Deadliest Fever, 2018, etc.) historical mystery series.

It is Feb. 26, 61 C.E., and Miriam bat Isaac bolts from her chair to answer the banging on the door of her town house in Roman-occupied Alexandria, Egypt. She sees her closest friend, Phoebe, badly beaten; within moments she crumbles to the marble floor. She dies in Miriam’s arms, mumbling the word “document.” Distraught, Miriam discovers her friend brought a tube containing a sealed, rolled parchment. With shock she learns the dead woman isn’t Phoebe but rather Phoebe’s hitherto unknown twin sister, Leda, who was raised in Crete. Leda was married to a brute, Pytheus, one of three cohorts who last year stole the jewels from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus on the island of Crete. According to Leda’s sworn statement, Pytheus intends to have Miriam killed. The sleuth’s momentary relief that it is not her best friend who has just expired vanishes when Phoebe’s husband, Bion, arrives and tells her that his wife is missing—kidnapped, it turns out. A few days later, Miriam encounters the dwarf Nathaniel ben Ruben, a friend from earlier in the series. It seems he, too, is being stalked by someone who sounds very much like Pytheus. Once again, Trop pulls readers into the sounds, smells, colors, and foods of ancient Alexandria. The multifaceted mystery is intriguing, with engaging characters, although they will seem less fully developed to new readers than to established fans. But the real strength of Trop’s atmospherically rich book lies in her ability to transport her audience to a distant time and place, seamlessly sprinkling her prose with period-appropriate Greek and Latin terminology and offering descriptive details that bespeak solid research: One scene has a table laden with “trays of stuffed olives, boiled eggs, and candied almonds; a platter of the cook’s specialty, thin slices of grilled lamb in a fragrant mint sauce; and a salad of dandelion greens, berries, and melon balls.”

Vibrant imagery and an entertaining plot ending with a most unexpected twist.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64437-201-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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