Past remains both prologue and villain in a solid, satisfying case.


The present is wounded by the past in an expertly judged psychological thriller.

Still reeling from his last case (Projection, 1999), likable forensic psychologist Frank Clevenger wants to shake the demons of his past: booze, drugs, women, and criminal investigations, all compulsions stemming from his scarred childhood. But old friend North Anderson, now chief of police in Nantucket, seeks Clevenger’s insights into a murder: Someone has asphyxiated a five-month-old baby by filling her trachea and nasal passages with window caulking. Clevenger takes on the case, which stirs memories of the physical and psychological abuse he himself suffered at his father’s hands. He finds the infant’s stepbrother Billy particularly compelling—the teenager’s back bears the marks of his father’s repeated lashings. And Billy’s insecure brother Garret also arouses his angst over a guilt-ridden young patient who committed suicide. Billy and Garret’s brutish father, billionaire Darwin Bishop, insists a violent Billy murdered the baby. As the evidence suggests, though, Clevenger senses Bishop is the killer. All the while, he grows irresistibly attracted to Bishop’s second wife Julia, the victim of Bishop’s philandering and physical violence. As he wonders whether love for Julia clouds his work on the case, someone tries to murder the infant’s surviving twin sister. Bishop loses it, literally striking out at Julia in an attack that turns the case around and lands him behind bars, clearly headed toward conviction for his daughter’s murder. Clevenger, Julia, and the boys seek a sunny recovery in Nantucket, but they don’t quite find it. In a surprise-filled coda, Clevenger digs into family history and uncovers a dark secret revealing that someone else, not Bishop, is the killer. Case dismissed? Perhaps from court, but not from the minds of its psychological victims, as a perceptive Ablow makes clear through Clevenger’s sharp observations.

Past remains both prologue and villain in a solid, satisfying case.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-26641-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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