A taut, thoughtful thriller; third in a series but also works as a stand-alone.

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VALLEY OF SPIES

From the Dennis Cunningham series , Vol. 3

Just months into early retirement from the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General, a former investigator accepts an agency contract to hunt for a missing person, one who knows his darkest secrets.  

In Yocum’s (A Dark Place, 2018, etc.) third—and best yet—Dennis Cunningham thriller, Dennis finds that retirement and relocation to Perth, home of longtime girlfriend and Aussie policewoman Judy White, offers him a lifestyle so relaxed that it bores him. A mandatory meeting with the director of the CIA, whose flight has a stopover in Australia, livens things up. The director explains that Dr. Jane Forrester, a therapist approved to treat agency members, disappeared while visiting New Zealand. Key members of the CIA determine a specific foreign country is responsible for the abduction, and a counterstrike against that nation is likely. But before authorizing the attack, the director gives Dennis, who has a zest and a rep for tracking people down, two weeks to find Forrester—or discover what happened to her—and to confirm agency intel. The director explains there are lots of reasons why an adversary would want to get their hands on the therapist—she “knows too much about her patients. She knows their weaknesses, their vulnerabilities.” She, in fact, knew Dennis’—she had been his therapist. The search for Forrester reconnects rough-around-the-edges Dennis with his former boss, Louise Nordland. The “tough, diminutive” ex-SEAL and Dennis had issues with each other in the past, but soon (sorry, Judy) sexual tension between the pair ramps up. Yocum skillfully varies the pace throughout this thriller and doesn’t shrink from brutal scenes of killings. Dialogue rings true, and descriptions suit the genre: “He had a pronounced underbite that pushed his chin forward into a reptilian face.” Yocum metes out backstory organically, and his nonstandard characters range from a confident, sexy, blonde amputee to Dennis himself—known for a drinking problem, about to become a grandfather, and still haunted by his own horrific childhood.

A taut, thoughtful thriller; third in a series but also works as a stand-alone.

Pub Date: May 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9978708-3-1

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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