An engrossing and suspenseful mystery.

STORM ISLAND

From the Kate Pomeroy Mysteries series , Vol. 1

In Watkins’ (Sarah and Zoey, 2017, etc.) mystery-series starter, a young doctor is haunted by hallucinations and anxieties regarding her mother’s death. 

When Kate Pomeroy, a second-year surgical resident at a Los Angeles hospital, wakes from a nap before a scheduled procedure, she overhears a conspiratorial conversation between assistant chief of psychiatry Dr. James Conway and an unknown man about an apparently illicit exchange of money. Kate thinks that it’s probably just a common bribe by a pharmaceutical rep, and heads into surgery. However, as she’s about to start the procedure, she’s waylaid by some kind of nervous breakdown and collapses into a mental fog. She’s committed to the psychiatric unit, where she experiences hallucinations as Conway illegally treats with her experimental drugs. After Conway’s subterfuge is uncovered, Kate’s father, Hamilton, sends her to Storm Island, where the family vacationed as a child, to recover. However, she’s still plagued by dark visions—including some involving her mother, Cassandra, who died on the island, an apparent suicide, when Kate was young. Kate then discovers several of her mom’s old journals, but the last, recording the year of her death, is missing. The young woman becomes determined to find out what happened to it, and in the midst of her investigations, she realizes much of what she thought she knew about her mother was false. Throughout this mystery story, Watkins artfully captures the distinction between reality and fantasy. Indeed, her depictions of Kate’s hallucinations are terrifying, and it’s often deliciously unclear whether the protagonist is experiencing a mental mirage or a clearheaded epiphany. The author builds the suspense in a cautious manner, meting out just enough information to keep the tale moving forward, but not so much as to lessen the gripping drama of the story. That said, the plot is a touch convoluted, overall, but one can’t help but be impressed with the aplomb with which Watkins weaves all the errant threads into a single narrative tapestry. 

An engrossing and suspenseful mystery. 

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944815-08-0

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Argon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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