A witty and engaging whodunit, with a “cowgirl philosopher” who’s part V.I. Warshawski and part John Wayne.

Wolf

From the Jessica James Mystery series , Vol. 1

A murder mystery features an unconventional college student and her friends.

This fiction debut stars Jessica James, a Montana cowgirl-turned-student at Chicago’s Northwestern University, where she endures the contemptuous, offhand sexism of her adviser, professor Baldrick Wolfgang Schmutzig. Jessica is a Ph.D. candidate in the professor’s philosophy program, and one night she and her “stoner buddy” Jack and his girlfriend-of-the-month, Amber, make a shocking discovery on campus: they find Schmutzig’s body in the bathtub of one of his rooms. Jessica also finds a typewritten, postdated note from the professor, in which he dumps her as a student and strongly advises her to quit her degree. The friends are alarmed that the police will connect them somehow to the murder. But Jessica, who’s “constitutionally incapable of being careful,” stumbles into investigating the crime herself, particularly when a note slipped under the professor’s door on the night of the killing warns her “you are not safe here.” The note was written by Dmitry Durchenko, a personable young janitor who was an art student in his native Russia and who’s revealed as being intimately connected not only with the professor’s life and death, but also with the dealings of local restaurateur and crime boss Vladimir “the Pope” Popov. Popov’s interested in some potentially priceless paintings Dmitry may or may not have smuggled into the United States. Oliver (Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from the Hunger Games to Campus Rape, 2016, etc.) tells her bouncy story in chapters alternating between Dmitry and Jessica, and she deftly keeps the two narrative sides both independently intriguing and carefully intertwined. Dmitry is a likably drawn character, as are Jessica’s various college friends (and the winningly realized police detective Harvey Cormier). But it’s Jessica herself who’s the standout creation here, a refreshing blend of grad school smarts and dude ranch grit. The author portrays Jessica’s fish-out-of-water position in grad school with infectious humor, and although a campus sexism subplot doesn’t quite hit its marks, the fast-paced story on balance remains excellent.

A witty and engaging whodunit, with a “cowgirl philosopher” who’s part V.I. Warshawski and part John Wayne.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-68535-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kaos Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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