A masterful mix of legal arcana and white-knuckle suspense, with a dollop of dirty pork-barrel politicking for good measure.

THE LEGAL LIMIT

Two brothers and a murder are at the heart of this fine, meaty legal thriller from circuit-court judge Clark (Plain Heathen Mischief, 2004, etc.).

The author’s latest, based on one of his own cases, is set in his small hometown: Stuart, Va. It begins in 1984. Gates Hunt is 27 and his kid brother Mason is 24. Their father Curt, mean as they come, used to wallop them mercilessly; he made life hell for his long-suffering wife Sadie Grace, too, before finally disappearing. Gates had protected Mason, hence the “visceral, epic connection” between the brothers. That explains why the decent, hardworking Mason covers for the shiftless Gates when he shoots another man dead. The victim had been fooling around with Gates’s girlfriend, and there was a late-night confrontation on a deserted country road, Mason the only witness. He gets rid of the gun and the case goes cold. Years pass. The no-good Gates is busted for selling drugs to an undercover state cop and draws a long prison term. Mason becomes a successful lawyer in Richmond and marries; he and wife Allison are a devoted couple. He returns to Stuart as an attorney; then Allison is killed in a car crash, leaving Mason to raise their daughter alone. It’s not until 2003 that the murder case is reopened. Gates, desperate and hoping for a pardon, accuses Mason of the crime; a special prosecutor is appointed, and Mason is indicted. Clark ratchets up the drama with two electrifying scenes: Sadie Grace smiting and disowning her son, and the brothers, by now the bitterest of enemies, slugging each other. Clark’s key point is the potential gap between the law and true justice, into which a good person can fall. Ultimately, everything pivots on an obscure Latin writ.

A masterful mix of legal arcana and white-knuckle suspense, with a dollop of dirty pork-barrel politicking for good measure.

Pub Date: July 11, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-26835-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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