It’s all there. The wonderful language. The leisurely pace. The rich detail. There’s just no end. Readers will be left to...

21

THE UNFINISHED TWENTY-FIRST NOVEL IN THE AUBREY/MATURIN SERIES

A lovely and welcome oddity: the much-loved author’s final fragment, titled simply by its position in the canon.

Correctly deciding that it would be impossible if not sacrilegious to hire a writer to complete successfully a work no more than a quarter finished, thereby placing one of the 20th-century’s finest prose stylists among the ranks of the undead that populate the thriller and crime shelves in the bookstores, Norton has instead taken the high road and released this tantalizing beginning as O’Brian left it. What his devoted readers will find is a lightly edited printing of the typescript, each page faced by a photocopy of the manuscript page from which it had been transcribed, and then, when the typed pages stopped, the handwritten pages alone. The effect is tantalizing, touching, and powerful. The story takes up with newly minted Admiral Jack Aubrey and his bosom friend and colleague, scholar-spy Dr. Stephen Maturin, rounding Cape Horn on Surprise, headed for the mouth of the River Plate, where Aubrey is to transfer his flag to a new squadron headed for new assignments off the Cape of Good Hope. Days of superbly calm sailing take them to the Argentine republic where, thanks to murderous local political storms, their welcome is cool if not hostile, a situation eased splendidly by the arrival of the Papal Nuncio, a supremely charming African polyglot who is also Aubrey’s illegitimate son, the happy result of an ancient liaison. When the squadron at last arrives under the command of the windbaggy peer Lord Leyton, it brings trouble in the form of Maturin’s old Trinity classmate Randolph Miller, a scoundrel who is also Lord Leyton’s cousin. There is a Confrontation and a duel, and then all sail for Africa by way of St. Helena. And there the story stops, ending in a superb afterword by Richard Snow.

It’s all there. The wonderful language. The leisurely pace. The rich detail. There’s just no end. Readers will be left to their dreams.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2004

ISBN: 0-393-06025-X

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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