A sturdy, intense adventure in which humanity wins out over greed.


High finance in an era of globalization serves as the backdrop for Wiid’s debut thriller.

The evil at the center of this suspenseful tale is megalomaniac Bogdan Popov, a Russian gangster who makes himself over as a billionaire following the collapse of the Soviet Union, “in a few years becoming the richest man in Russia.” Popov doesn’t care whom he hurts from on high, including the other characters in this novel who get tangled up in his affairs. Leon Jacobs is a substance-abusing student majoring in journalism; after he’s kicked out of his university, he lands a job as a scuba instructor at an Egyptian resort where he has a brief affair with Sophia, Popov’s damaged heiress daughter. She makes an introduction that gets Leon a low-level job at her father’s firm in London, where Popov himself takes notice of him. Leon and Isabella van Graan, a South African lawyer, eventually publicize Popov’s dirty deeds, which paints a target on Leon’s back. Leon then escapes to South Africa, where he befriends Franklin Benjamin, a drug-addicted, low-level gangster whose brother was killed in a botched robbery. But trouble follows, leading to a bloody showdown between Popov’s mercenary forces and a handful of Franklin’s gangster buddies. Wiid adds a necessary air of authenticity to his novel with his detailed knowledge of international finance and his South African homeland. The only drawback is it’s not always easy to decipher his characters’ local slang from context alone (“We tried Tik a few times but didn’t like it. We stick with dagga, but only on occasion, we can stop when we want”). He crafts the redemptions of Leon, Sophia, Franklin, and Isabella, who all start as unlikable characters, so that they’re believable and natural. This, in turn, makes the fate of Popov and his mercenary enforcer, Sinovich, all the more fulfilling. The novel’s pace is slow in sections, but Wiid picks it up when it counts near the end. Overall, it’s a bumpy ride but a worthwhile journey.

A sturdy, intense adventure in which humanity wins out over greed.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9946677-4-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Staging Post

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2016

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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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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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