Another sharp mystery in a continually improving series.

THE HORNED OWL

A SAM CHITTO MYSTERY

In the third installment of Clifton’s (The Bonepicker, 2017, etc.) thriller series, Detective Sam Chitto of the Choctaw Tribal Police in southeastern Oklahoma tries to prove a high schooler innocent of murder while also digging into his own father’s decade-old homicide.

Chitto first hears about Bobby Taneyhill from two concerned members of the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council, one of whom is his mother, Mattie Chitto. She and June Biggers want him to help the teen, who’s been charged with first-degree murder for the mutilation death of 33-year-old Muriel Simpson. Authorities are discounting an alibi supplied by Bobby’s tribal-elder grandfather, Charlie Walker, and instead rely on circumstantial evidence: the boy’s graphic novels, which are filled with savage imagery that he drew. The murder victim had worked at the Spiro Mounds Archaeology Center, near where Chitto’s cop father, Will, and Will’s partner, Bert Gilly, were murdered 10 years ago. Chitto’s boss, Dan Blackfox, allows him to pursue a low-profile investigation into Bobby’s case, which is currently in trial, but he tells him to avoid his father’s. Regardless, Chitto delves into both from a rented cabin near the Spiro Mounds, bringing along his trusty hound, Boycott, and consulting with his administrative assistant, Jasmine Birdsong, by phone. He already has a suspect in his father’s murder, but he’s still searching for one for the more recent homicide. Clifton dives right into the mystery at the start of the novel, opening with Mattie and June’s emphatic entrance into Chitto’s office, soaking wet from a thunderstorm. The concurrent investigations are equally engrossing; at one point, for example, Chitto questions why he never learned of a relevant phone call that Gilly received; meanwhile, his suspect list for the Simpson murder wisely includes Bobby. There’s more focus on the present-day case, which intermittently puts Chitto in the role of spectator, watching the trial unfold in the courtroom. It’s surprisingly exhilarating to watch Chitto race to catch up with two cases that are already well underway. The various characters are vibrant, but Jasmine, once again, shines brightest, handling the bulk of the story’s dry humor; in one scene, for instance, she demands a raise but immediately settles for two weeks of Chitto's buying her coffee.

Another sharp mystery in a continually improving series.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9985284-2-7

Page Count: 316

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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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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