First-rate debut thriller involving forensic psychology by practicing psychiatrist Ablow (The Strange Case of Dr. Kappler: The Doctor Who Became a Killer, 1994). Ablow's protagonist, forensic psychologist Frank Clevenger, makes for a distinctly unusual hero: He repeatedly falls off the wagon, goes from one billowing, self-defeating obsession to the next, buys coke on borrowed money, buys sex at nude dance bars, bottomlessly gulps scotch, gambles, drives drunk, digs S&M, can't pay his bills, solicits his mother for drug money, and more. The upside is that Clevenger's terrific insight into abnormal behavior may in fact be just because he's so twisted himself, a result, it's suggested, of his being the product of an alcoholic, suicidal, abusive father and a promiscuous mother. Now Frank is called in by Chief Emma Hancock to help send up the killer who murdered a young woman and cut her breasts off. A homeless nut wants to confess, but Frank, after interviewing him, says no. When her own niece becomes the madman's second victim, Emma gives Frank free rein to chase the perp and throws in three grams of coke to keep him stable. Meanwhile, Frank has huge fights with his live-in mate, Kathy, an ob-gyn who delivers babies all day and keeps leaving Frank because he won't quit the coke. Following leads to his favorite girlie bar, where he sits in ``Perverts' Row'' and feeds money to naked dancers, Frank finds himself attracted to Rachel, a star-crossed lady who analyzes him more keenly than he can himself. Ablow's main subject here is psychology, not melodrama, and, yes, he's written a cautionary tale. But, like The Lost Weekend, it ends with the hero still self-deluded and in denial—with Clevenger thinking, against the evidence, that he's on the road to recovery. A novel for the self-destructive in all of us. *justify no*

Pub Date: July 9, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-44211-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?