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HOUSE BOY

Evocative imagery, sociopolitical relevance, and a compelling storyline.

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A young Indian man sets out to support his impoverished family and winds up in a human trafficking ring.

Author, producer, and playwright DeStefano’s debut centers around the life of 20-something Vijay Pallan, born poor in the “solarized and crude topography” of Chettipattu village in southern India. Vijay internalizes his family’s strife and, weary of his father’s belief that “this is how life is when you have nothing,” ventures out into the Chennai capital planning to improve his family’s conditions. Despite Vijay’s steely determination, work doesn’t come easy. Worse, he is attacked by a vicious animal in a city park. But he’s rescued by a local; Santhana offers him food and shelter and boasts about his work with an employment agency that hires “domestics” for Indian families in Britain. Santhana’s evasive, fast-talking boss, Narahari, promises the young man top living conditions, opportunities for “foreign travel,” and a generous hiring bonus. Split into two very different sections, the novel’s first half paints a very realistic, vibrant portrait of poor Indian families and their struggle to thrive amid a violent, discriminatory caste system. In the novel’s second half, vulnerable Vijay is whisked off to North London and immediately enslaved as the unpaid house boy for a family wickedly skilled in physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and torment of servants. Vijay must become a savage outlaw in a vicious whirlwind of murder and retribution. Though the novel is often intense and graphically violent, DeStefano tempers his plot with Vijay’s worldview and atmospheric portrayals of India and England. And Vijay’s traumatic experiences transcend fiction and read like an authentic, contemporary depiction of the effects of the caste system and human trafficking. In his acknowledgements, DeStefano thanks an unnamed contributor “who actually lived this story.”

Evocative imagery, sociopolitical relevance, and a compelling storyline.

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63988-243-4

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2022

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TOM CLANCY ACT OF DEFIANCE

Well-paced excitement as the Ryans come through again.

Echoes of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October reverberate four decades after the late author’s famous debut.

In 1984, Dimitri Gorov plans to deliver details of the advanced Soviet submarine Red October to the Americans, but Marko Ramius has already defected and delivered the boat itself. Gorov dies and now, decades later, his son Konstantin captains the Belgorod, Russia’s most advanced sub. Said sub goes rogue along with its nuclear-tipped torpedoes that can penetrate American defenses and blow up some of our coastal cities, or “wipe the American Atlantic fleet off the map.” Driven by multiple grievances, Konstantin wants to do just that, but a painful illness may bring him down. Meanwhile, young Navy lieutenant Kathleen (Katie, please) Ryan plays one of several key roles in trying to stop World War III. She’s smart and appealing and tries hard to downplay the fact that she’s President Jack Ryan’s daughter—“Daddy’s little girl,” as a snarky officer says to her face. In one nail-biting scene a helicopter tries to transfer her from a ship to a submarine in the open ocean. As with every novel in the series, readers are treated to a ton of technical details and asides that slow the reading occasionally, but without which it would not be a Clancy yarn. And of course, there is the obligatory establishment of what fine all-around Americans the Ryans are. Plenty of well-crafted characters, Russian and American, make up the cast. War begins to brew as a Russian MiG is shot down and troubles threaten to escalate. At one point, Katie “felt like the entire world was barreling toward oblivion and she was the only one who could stop it.” But wait: Late in the game, Konstantin muses, “There is nothing the Americans can do to stop me.” Who is right? Hmm, that’s a tough one. In her proud father’s mind, Lieutenant Ryan becomes “Katie—my little girl turned naval officer overnight.”

Well-paced excitement as the Ryans come through again.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9780593422878

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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THINK TWICE

A great premise leads through all the twists you’d expect to a thoroughly muddy final movement.

Sports agent Myron Bolitar meets the Setup Serial Killer, who’s found a highly effective way to keep anyone from connecting the dots.

There’s no arguing with DNA evidence, the ultimate forensic clincher. So when basketball player Greg Downing’s DNA is found on the scene where retired model Cecelia Callister and her son, Clay, were killed, the FBI comes calling on Myron to ask where they can find Greg. Myron’s a reasonable person to ask because Greg was his schoolmate and former client, the man who wooed and won Myron’s girlfriend away from him and made her Emily Downing. Try as he might, though, Myron can’t help much beyond repeating the obvious: Greg died three years ago, and his body was cremated. Since the Feds aren’t about to give up their search, Myron and his partner, financial advisor Win Lockwood, decide they’d better see if they can get ahead of this story by confirming or contradicting the story of Greg’s death. Meantime, a series of interleaved episodes show the killer eliminating a series of primary targets and framing secondary targets so convincingly for the murders, with special thanks to planted DNA, that it never occurs to the police to connect crimes that were so readily solved on their own. Complications arise when Myron’s thrown together with Jeremy Downing, the son he fathered in a pre-wedding tryst with Emily and then passed off as Greg’s, and when the allies of mob boss Joseph “Joey the Toe” Turant, who was locked up four years ago after his DNA-fueled conviction for the murder of Jordan Kravat, decide to lean on Myron to get him to reveal where Greg is.

A great premise leads through all the twists you’d expect to a thoroughly muddy final movement.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9781538756317

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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