THE CAMEL DRIVER

From the A Harry Przewalski Novel series , Vol. 3

A fiercely intelligent crime drama as emotionally sharp as it is historically inventive.

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In Krishtalka’s (Death Spoke, 2019, etc.) third mystery-series installment, a private detective and former paleontologist investigates a bizarre incident with a complex historical pedigree. 

At Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum, a well-known historical diorama—Arab Courier Attacked by Lions, “one of America’s cultural treasures”—has been torn apart by someone who also attacked the exhibit’s guard. The assailant then sliced open the belly of the taxidermic camel and took something that, upon inspection, appears to have been the mummified remains of a small, female child. Without any clear suspect or motive for the crime, the police call in Harry Przewalski, a private investigator who once worked at the museum as a paleontologist; after a series of personal misfortunes, he’d joined the military and “fled to the violent solitude of a desert war.” Liza Kole, another paleontologist and who has also been Harry’s romantic partner in the past, informs him that the art installation was created, to great fanfare, 150 years ago by Jules Verreaux; he was known as the “finest taxidermist in France”—one with the skills to “give immortality” to the dead. Anna Storck, the museum’s physical anthropologist, commits suicide only two days after the vandalism, and police believe that the two events are unconnected. But Harry, in his inimitable style, is skeptical: “Yeah, well, in our business coincidence could be a fact just waiting for an equation.” He soon finds that Verreaux had seduced and impregnated a Elisabeth Greef, Dutch woman, in Capetown, South Africa, and when he abandoned her, she “sued him for betrayal.” The child inside the camel could have been hers—and the vandalism, an act of revenge.  Over the course of this novel, Krishtalka artfully conjures the grim life of the prodigiously talented Verreaux. The taxidermist is such a sordid character that there were indeed multiple reasons why someone one would want to take revenge upon him—even a century and a half after he’d created his diorama. Throughout, the author presents the evidence with great skill: Verreaux’s journals, the letters between him and Elisabeth, and detailed accounts of the trial in which she sued him for breach of contract are all revealed to connect to the modern-day mystery. Krishtalka’s prose is powerfully versatile, alternating between the sort of terse, unsentimental phrasing that one would expect from a detective story and poetical elegance. At one point, for example, when Harry sees a pencil sketch of Elisabeth, he finds himself swept away: “For a moment, Harry was lost in the damp heat of her bed, that angular face fierce in love or revenge, the full lips primed to kiss or slay, the wild hair on the pillow exploding in fervor or fury, the bare back arched in rapture or revolt, the long legs in ecstasy or constriction.” Harry’s own life also poignantly reveals duality, but his is a tug of war between painful memories and a longing to rejoin the land of the living. 

A fiercely intelligent crime drama as emotionally sharp as it is historically inventive. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-941237-32-8

Page Count: 279

Publisher: Anamcara Press LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

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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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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