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Vette Head's Not Dead

A promising but unevenly executed thriller.

In Sweetapple’s (Key West Revenge, 2012) thriller, a group of friends on a hunting trip discover that they’re the ones being targeted.

In 1985 Japan, U.S. Army Capt. Jim “Vette Head” Stillwater and his team are on an intelligence mission, pursuing members of a terrorist group in an effort to deter a possible attack on U.S. assets. Although they’re not fully convinced that there’s any real threat, they follow their orders to eliminate the terrorists. However, they learn later that their orders were based on a secret revenge plan and are told that if they ever set foot in Japan again, they’ll be arrested for murder. Disgusted, Jim resigns and joins the private sector. Fast-forward to 2005: Jim now works for a defense contractor and tries to convince his friend LP Thomas to join him on a New Hampshire hunting trip with some of his Army buddies. It turns out that LP, a fellow car fanatic, needs to pick up a transmission for his Corvette, and it happens to be on the way. However, the transmission is buried in the backyard of LP’s eccentric acquaintance. When the group instead unearths a cache of Nazi gold, all hell breaks loose. This thriller’s rambling and somewhat confusing storyline is full of action, but it’s a bit of a hodgepodge; halfway through the book, it’s still not clear whether the story is headed into spy-novel or military-thriller territory. Many of the characters are one-dimensional, and some verge on caricature, such as a cocaine-snorting biker and an overweight, lazy cop with a penchant for white supremacy. The overall premise has potential, and readers interested in the military will find that the author knows his stuff. However, some aspects of the novel are overexplained, such as the characters’ intricate knowledge of weapons and muscle cars, and these extraneous details detract from the novel’s action-packed climax.

A promising but unevenly executed thriller. 

Pub Date: June 23, 2005

ISBN: 978-0595672509

Page Count: 178

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2013

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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