A remarkable whodunit that’s as sharp as it is concise.

TIED TO DECEIT

In Brar’s debut mystery, a detective uncovers secrets surrounding a murder in 1970s India.

Gayatri Bhardwaj had suspected her doctor husband, Rajinder, of infidelity even before she received an anonymous letter about an upcoming adulterous encounter. She walks in on him and his lover, Devika Singh, who works at Lifeline Hospital with Rajinder, and Devika only exacerbates the situation by claiming that she’s pregnant with Rajinder’s child. Devika later turns up dead from strangulation, and Superintendent of Police Vishwanath Sharma’s investigation quickly leads him to the Bhardwajs. But the murder case is far from that simple. Others on the hospital staff had blamed Devika for a patient’s recent death—she’d contacted police regarding the girl’s attempted suicide, which delayed her treatment. Sharma soon learns that Devika had other enemies with motives to kill her. As he delves further into Devika’s life, it only deepens the mystery and reveals additional suspects, including her estranged spouse, Virat Singh Chaudhry. Sharma rightly surmises that quite a few interviewees are hiding something, and he receives a note that seems to point him toward a killer—or possibly a scapegoat. Brar enhances her taut murder mystery with an engaging setting that effectively incorporates the local culture, as when someone uses a respectful honorific, “Sahib,” for a character they may not respect at all. The narrative is flavored throughout with occasional Hindi, with plenty of context for readers who are unfamiliar with the language. The author reveals her characters to be delightfully complex; for instance, Devika is described as “good, but not always, and certainly not to everyone.” The mystery, too, is involving; interrogations make up the bulk of the story, and although readers know a bit more than Sharma does, they’ll still find identifying the culprit to be a challenge. The smart, believable denouement will have readers looking forward to Brar’s next endeavor.

A remarkable whodunit that’s as sharp as it is concise.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77515-803-5

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Penguide Books

Review Posted Online: May 4, 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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Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice,...

LONG DIVISION

A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.

Citoyen “City” Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don’t get along, they’ve qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word “niggardly” and, to say the least, does not provide a “correct, appropriate or dynamic usage” of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word “chitterlings,” so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, “the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings.” Meanwhile, the principal at City’s school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he’s in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City’s humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways.

Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932841-72-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Bolden/Agate

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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