Another page-turner featuring a twisty plot, a strong female lead, and some helpful painting tips for aspiring artists.

DEATH AT CROOKED CREEK

From the Jessie O'Bourne Art Mystery series , Vol. 2

Artist and author Cherry (Death on Canvas, 2016) returns with a unique mix of murder, art, and a hefty supply of suspects in this second Jessie O’Bourne mystery.

Dead bodies seem to turn up whenever Jessie returns to Montana. She and her enormous, charmingly privileged cat Jack (aka “Butter Tub”) have been spending a lot of time on the road, attending art showings and gallery meet-and-greets. She was looking forward to some downtime when a friend asked her to fill in as a guest artist at the annual art expo in Crooked Creek, Montana, where locals have been gossiping about a number of strange deaths. They started six months ago, when teenage Adele Nielson was mysteriously shot and killed while driving her father’s tractor on their farm. But Jessie doesn’t know about any of this as she organizes her display and sets up materials for her oil painting classes. The morning after her arrival, though, someone leaves small toy tractors outside her hotel room door. Then she discovers a dead body stuffed into a storage compartment of the Hawk, her trusty motor home. As a result, Jessie is once again pulled into a dangerous murder investigation, and the local sheriff considers her a suspect. Cherry packs her novel with so many characters that readers may find it difficult to keep them all straight in the beginning. More than a handful are hiding one secret or another, which provides the tale with a plethora of red herrings. Although the mystery itself is engaging, much of the fun comes from Cherry’s detailed portraits of the eclectic, quirky creative types that inhabit the art world. For instance, the author shows how Jessie sees everything as a painting in progress: “Glen’s [bald] head became a tiny, empty, round canvas. In her mind, she painted a small robin’s nest on that bare space, the wiry hairs surrounding the spot becoming woven twigs encircling three blue eggs.”

Another page-turner featuring a twisty plot, a strong female lead, and some helpful painting tips for aspiring artists.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72459-299-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2018

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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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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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