A promising storyline that falls victim to disappointing writing and editing.

The Fragrance Shed By A Violet

In Wilder’s debut novel, a respected Houston cardiologist is convicted of killing her mother with an unapproved drug, but some begin to question whether she’s actually guilty of the crime.

Dr. Lindsey McCall successfully modifies a digitalis drug that she hopes will save the lives of patients with heart failure, including her own mother. But when Ann McCall dies, Houston police receive an anonymous tip claiming that Lindsey used the drug to kill her. Officials exhume the body, find the unapproved medication in her system, and try Lindsey for murder. She’s convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. The story draws the attention of newspaper reporter Kate Townsend, who plans an investigative series titled “Murder in the Texas Medical Center.” During her research, she’s disturbed to learn that Lindsey’s older sister, a nurse named Paula Livingston, testified against her and is pleased that Lindsey’s in Huntsville Prison. The new chief warden, Rich Jansen, also finds himself interested in Lindsey’s case—and in her. The author offers a solid premise and a fair amount of suspense, and some of her characters—particularly Jansen and Lindsey’s friend Julie—are quite well-drawn. Unfortunately, these good points are overshadowed by the fact that many sentences are awkward and amateurish, such as, “His curiosity had been piqued by these last remarks of Lindsey about her family.” The author’s use of stiff, academic language is another weakness; for example, Lindsey is said to have “persuaded her chemistry and biology teachers to support her determination to alter the digitalis molecule in ways that would optimize its inotropic or strengthening effects on the heart.” The reporter’s subplot seems particularly outlandish, as her poorly written articles win not one, but three Pulitzer Prizes. The novel could also have used a stronger copy edit to catch spelling errors (“tenants” instead of “tenets,” “coy” instead of “koi”).

A promising storyline that falls victim to disappointing writing and editing.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-163063261

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2015

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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