Solid characters and Lance’s alluringly grim dreams help distinguish this murder mystery.

Flight of the Tarantula Hawk


Psychic crime-scene photographer Lance Underphal is back. In Scott’s (Dark Side of Sunset Pointe, 2013) latest thriller, this tortured character tries to use his visions to help police find a murderer who’s injecting victims with Botox.

When Lance is called to photograph the scene of a murder, a real estate agent killed by Botox shot into her neck, he realizes he’s already seen this in a vision—a wasp stinging a tarantula with a paralytic venom. Doing what he can to help his cop pal Detective Frank Salmon, Lance combs through his dreams, vague though they might be—the symbolic wasp and tarantula; a potential victim whom Lance can’t see clearly; a killer appearing as a child. Meanwhile, Lance, a tormented psychic plagued with insomnia and migraines, finds solace in hearing and conversing with the voice of his dead wife, Sonja. PI Jake Jacobs, a former SEAL who served with Frank, enters the investigation when he’s hired by Jenny, whose husband, Paul, disappears and is later found dead, also from Botox. Jake eventually locks on to a suspect, the senior vice president of a bank’s HR department, while the police have their eyes on someone else. Lance, meanwhile, provides details as they come to him, but he’s absolutely sure of one thing: The murderer is female. He just has to convince the cops he’s right. Alluding to his previous novel with mentions of “the Rodriguez case” but avoiding unnecessary elaboration, Scott can churn out visually rich passages with ease, particularly later in the story when the visions gradually reveal the killer and become increasingly disturbing. In particular, manifestations of the little girl eventually merge with the wasp and tarantula in a stunning, cringe-worthy scene. Lance is an intriguing protagonist, suffering from his psychic abilities with visions of a killer inside his head but also tortured by the simple fact that he still misses Sonja. Jake, however, ends up with the sauciest morsels: Already in a sexual relationship with Jenny’s mother, he picks up his female suspect at a bar on ladies’ night and later has to convince Jenny that he’s not holding out on her in the search for Paul’s killer. He has the best scene, too, when he tracks still-missing Paul’s phone to a foreclosed home and slowly approaches the door while on the phone with Jenny. However, the killer’s identity may not be a shock—readers will likely spot the link between the first two victims and wonder why the cops didn’t see it sooner.

Solid characters and Lance’s alluringly grim dreams help distinguish this murder mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1940745015

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Telemachus Press

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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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