CITY OF ANGELS

A spirited Hollywood mystery that has its moments.

An aspiring Hollywood starlet struggles to launch her career while a serial killer stalks young actresses in this novel.

Ariel Ames has just arrived in Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. At first, things don’t look so great. She has no agent or connections; she’s living with an obnoxious, sex-crazed roommate; and a serial murderer called the Angel Killer is slaughtering young redheads in outlandish, dramatic ways. Ariel, a redhead, signs up for self-defense classes yet also lands a job dancing at a bikini bar under the stage name Scarlet. Her workplace is called Misty’s Menagerie of Misfits, Marvels, and Maladjusts, and is something of a local institution. Soon after she begins, she attracts the attention of a talent agent while a coffee shop encounter lands her a date with an actor named Nate Harris. As the Angel Killer continues to terrorize the city, he broadcasts a message to inform the world that he is murdering people to absolve them of their sins. “What I do, I do out of mercy, not malice. I kill because I care,” he says. Special Agent Marcus August of the FBI investigates the case as the body count keeps rising. But things take a much more sinister turn when Ariel begins receiving notes from the killer. Afraid but not wanting to run and hide, she has to balance her desire to quickly build her career with the haunting menace of the Angel Killer, who seems ready to murder again. Adam’s (American Asshole, 2016, etc.) book is somewhat short. But for a concise novel, he tackles a great deal of weighty issues, no small feat for a writer whose protagonist met her agent at a strip club but refuses to do on-screen nudity. The Hollywood he writes about is full of men harboring motives and agendas, with the ever-present threat of sexual harassment or even rape always looming. In addition, the serial killer’s crimes are a shocking example of misogyny. This work isn’t as in-depth or as humorous as Adam’s wonderful debut, American Asshole, and there isn’t space to develop all of the characters. Even so, lighthearted irony does shine through, and the conclusion delivers an inventive, theatrical climax.

A spirited Hollywood mystery that has its moments.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64606-951-4

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Post-Entropy

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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