The dynamic protagonist leads a smart and indelible whodunit.

THE BONEPICKER

A SAM CHITTO MYSTERY

From the A Sam Chitto Mystery series , Vol. 2

In Clifton’s (Seeking Cassandra, 2016, etc.) latest thriller, a detective steps outside his jurisdiction to help a mother prove an unidentified skull belongs to her decadeslong missing son.

Peony Folsom specifically requests Sam Chitto of the Choctaw Tribal Police in Oklahoma, since old mystic Sonny Boy Munro assured her that the detective can help. Sonny Boy calls him the Nameless One, a legendary hunter according to Choctaw teachings, and Peony wants Chitto to find her son, Walter, who’s been missing for over 35 years. Based on an artist’s rendering, Peony believes authorities found Walter’s skull in Leona Mann’s recently exhumed coffin, sans Leona’s head and the skull’s body. Retrieving Walter’s remains for a proper ceremony entails Chitto looking into a double homicide from the same night Walter vanished: Leona and her boyfriend, Billy Rob Niles. The detective’s perturbed by the sketchy investigation of the murders; there was no medical examiner involved, and a witness’s name was strangely omitted. But Chitto fears whoever murdered the couple—and maybe Walter as well—is still alive, and the hit-and-run that nearly killed Peony not long ago was a calculated response to the woman asking too many questions about the skull. Having well-established the protagonist’s Native American culture and back story (including his late wife, Mary) in the first Chitto novel, Clifton concentrates the series’ second tale on the mystery. There’s plenty to savor, from an unknown trainman who watched the cops move the couple’s bodies to Walter’s daughter, Crystal, aiding Chitto’s investigation and feeling sure that both her parents abandoned her. While readers may pinpoint the killer(s) before Chitto, the story ends with a lingering question open to interpretation (and one possible explanation that’s truly unsettling). Always-accommodating Sgt. Frank Tubbe makes a welcome return, but scene-stealing clerical floater Jasmine Birdsong proves useful in the probe as well as choosing a candidate for the position she’s temporarily filling. One can only hope she’ll stick around and become a series staple.

The dynamic protagonist leads a smart and indelible whodunit.

Pub Date: March 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9985284-0-3

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Two Shadows

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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