A fun, fleshed-out fantasy with sympathetic main characters.

BISHOP TAKES KNIGHT

A detective agency helps mutants created by radiation in this romantic fantasy thriller, the first in the Redclaw Origins series by Dean (Ghost of a Chance, 2018, etc.).

New York, 1955. Henrietta “Rhett” Bishop, a daughter of privilege whose father has gambled away the family fortune before taking his own life, must find a way to provide for herself. She takes a job at Redclaw Security, an unusual detective agency tasked with aiding the growing population of “shifters”—mutants created by radiation unleashed in the nuclear age. After Rhett proves her value to the firm during what she thought was an attempted robbery, her shifter boss sends her on a mission. Her target is Peter Knight, a nuclear scientist and widower whose wife died in a hit-and-run that looks like murder. He’s been blacklisted by the government for suspected Communist sympathies and has since dropped out of sight. Peter’s skills are highly desirable, however, and Rhett is sent to recruit him for Redclaw, though that’s not the only organization interested in him. She manages to locate Peter, and, with the promise that Redclaw will help him learn more about his wife’s death, she convinces him to join. Together they are sent after a stolen cache of artifacts hijacked en route to the Redclaw headquarters, artifacts that seem to have resurfaced in the Hamptons amid Rhett’s moneyed former crowd. Dean’s prose balances the urgency of romantic fantasy with the muscular rhythms of detective noir: “A quick glance at Knight showed he was losing his ability to maintain any part of his disguise. Even as I blanked on what to say to him, his face slowly morphed back into his own. I had no time to think it through. I just acted, grabbing Knight by the back of his neck and pulling him into a kiss, all the while fumbling behind me, clutch in hand, for the handle to the room beside us.” While the book relies heavily on archetypes, Dean does so with a winking self-awareness. Rhett and Peter are both well drawn and likable characters, and the blend of alien technology, shadowy organizations, hard-boiled sleuthing, and budding romance makes for a surprisingly compelling read.

A fun, fleshed-out fantasy with sympathetic main characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69172-796-4

Page Count: 353

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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