A kidnapping tale dishes out edgy melodrama in the vein of a dark, unsettling soap opera.

The Most Important Thing

A woman’s sudden disappearance exposes a slew of grim, bitter secrets surrounding her family in this debut thriller.

When Melanie Tate vanishes, her car abandoned in a store parking lot, Burke Lake Detective Stan Yates naturally zeroes in on her husband, Jeff. Cops often suspect the spouse, but Yates has good reason to. Jeff may have resented Melanie, daughter of late oil tycoon Harry Woodward, for stashing her hefty million-dollar inheritance, opting to save the money for their children. The couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Sara, is so sure of her father’s guilt that in a tweet she suggests that police check the backyard. Of course, authorities have security footage of someone snatching Melanie near her car. The culprit doesn’t look like Jeff, but Yates may have a way to link him to a convict locked up back when Melanie was employed at the Department of Corrections. Readers know that Melanie is alive, chained up in a basement by a man calling himself Brian and insisting her name is Brie. Brian believes that, if he holds her long enough, she’ll warm up to her captor, which may be working: Melanie alternates between herself and the Brie persona. Jeff, even if he’s not behind the kidnapping, is unquestionably hiding something from the cops. But he isn’t the only one, as family and friends know a lot more than they’re saying. The deceptively simple abduction plot gradually adds succulent details, like the fact that Melanie was fairly sure Jeff was having an affair. These eventually lead to numerous surprises that throw suspicion on Jeff as well as another character or two. At the same time, perspective from nearly every character, from the Tate twins to irrefutably creepy Brian, makes everyone at least capable, if not culpable, of something shady. Better editing would have polished the narrative, hampered a bit by grammatical inaccuracies. Frequent run-ons, for example, result in choppy sentences: “He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time Yates his whole life and this case was no exception.” But they’re never outright confusing and certainly forgivable once the twisty tale begins unraveling all the way to its startling conclusion.

A kidnapping tale dishes out edgy melodrama in the vein of a dark, unsettling soap opera.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-63757-9

Page Count: 310

Publisher: DeLorge Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2016

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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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