ICE CREAM WAR

A light tale that will appeal to fans of the cozy mystery genre.

In Janson’s (Mal Practice, 2013, etc.) mystery set in small-town Nebraska, an ice cream shop owner reluctantly assists her business rival when a dead body is found in his store.

This novel is a competent, cozy mystery of the dream-job genre, in which a sleuth is reluctantly drawn into an investigation when she’d rather be pursuing her desired career. Here, Mary Burke, who graduated from law school but never took the bar exam, spends her days trying to sell ice cream in her small hometown—that is, when she isn’t seething over the antics of Jeremiah “Jerry” Wilson, a Southern California surfer and slacker who’s returned to town to keep an eye on his crazy Aunt May. Unfortunately, Jerry has also chosen to reopen his ice cream parlor, but he isn’t in it for the money—instead, he gives the stuff away. When one of Jerry’s ex-roommates from Huntington Beach, California—the decidedly unsavory Angie—turns up dead in his store, Mary can’t help putting her legal mind to work to help the hapless man out of his fix. The predictable conflict between Midwest small-town values and the presumed sex-drugs-and-rock ’n’ roll lifestyle of Left Coast denizens is played for laughs; Jerry’s apparent stoner vibe, for example, turns out to be more Zen than zonked, and when he talks about selling grass, he actually means sod. However, his blissed-out naïveté can wear thin after a while. There’s some effective nastiness afoot, however, regarding roomies that Jerry tried, and failed, to pull out of destructive lifestyles, and the Nebraskans who hide venality under a wholesome facade. Underneath the high jinks, though, this is a mystery that plays fair and relies on the accumulation and analysis of evidence—rather than characters running around frantically until the solution falls into their lap, as is too often the case in mysteries of this ilk.

A light tale that will appeal to fans of the cozy mystery genre.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990742401

Page Count: 258

Publisher: JM Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

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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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