A familiar but action-packed whodunit.


From the Janet Black Mystery series , Vol. 1

A bar owner takes on the role of detective in the first installment of Kirsch’s (The Big Job, 2018, etc.) new mystery series.

Janet Black is the proprietor of a friendly neighborhood bar in Knoxville, Tennessee, called the Spot. She loves the place, but she finds that managing it presents some challenges; for example, it appears that one of her employees has been stealing from the register, and she’s focused on finding the culprit. Then one day, she discovers a dead body behind the bar. It’s Ike Freeman, a formerly troublesome regular. The police attempt to pin the murder on Janet’s sexy boyfriend, Jason, a security expert with a juvenile criminal record for computer hacking. To clear his name, Janet decides to do a little digging on her own. It also turns out that Ike had a rough past in which he left a trail of destruction. Then one of Janet’s employees, who likely has knowledge of the crime, disappears—and so does Jason. She later finds evidence of police corruption, and when another body turns up in the bar, Janet escalates the investigation further; she eventually gets all the suspects together in one room—a move reminiscent of Agatha’s Christie’s legendary detective Hercule Poirot. Kirsch’s witty whodunit includes plenty of red herrings and a long list of potential suspects with plausible reasons to commit murder. The protagonist, a minor character from the author’s Stella Reynolds series, is a little rough around the edges, but readers will find her to be likable enough to carry her own story. She’s sharp, she swears, and she’s not always right, but she does everything with an appealing sense of humor. This novel doesn’t break any new ground; it’s a light, cozy mystery with a charismatic female lead and a quirky cast of characters, including a handsome love interest in the background. However, it’s excellent escapist entertainment.

A familiar but action-packed whodunit.  

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9969350-8-1

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Sunnyside Press

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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