TAKING LIVES

It’s a pity Alfred Hitchcock isn’t around to direct the inevitable film version of this witty and intricate intercontinental thriller from the acclaimed historian (Maximum City: The Biography of New York, 1993) and fiction writer (The Drowning Room, 1996, etc.). Pye’s dazzling story begins with a clipped, brusque present-tense narration of the life and crimes of Martin Arkenhout, a 17-year-old Dutch student in the US who assumes the identity of an American boy he meets while traveling through Florida, after the latter is critically wounded by a hit-and-run driver and Martin phlegmatically finishes the job. Then, having discovered the advantages of being able to shed his identity at will, he continues to “take lives,” murdering, then “becoming” one acquaintance after another, until at last slipping into the skin and personal history of art teacher Christopher Hart: a “Seventeenth-century specialist, Dutch interests. A man trying to get noticed in the shadow of Simon Schama.” This newest life takes Arkenhout to Amsterdam, where he’s sighted by his mother (who informs the police), then to Portugal, where he’s tracked down and eventually confronted by John Michael Snell Costa, a Portugese-American “museum functionary” assigned to investigate Hart’s presumed theft of some invaluable illustrated manuscript pages. As Costa’s pursuit of “Hart” proceeds (the former having become, in one of the most dexterous twists here, the narrator), Pye skillfully expands the action to include a further investigation: into the reasons behind Costa päre’s return to his homeland, and the question of whether he had been an enemy of postwar dictator Salazar, or, instead, a member of Portugal’s notorious secret police. The pursuer becomes the quarry, and a climactic meeting with Arkenhout’s mother chillingly unlocks the key to her son’s opaque amorality. Tough as nails, and superbly constructed, with a lingering bitter aftertaste. This is about as good as literary thrillers get. (First printing of 50,000)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-40260-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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