Tight action sequences and a high-energy plot that readers should relish.

THE BLIND POOL

A military veteran’s unpleasant encounter with a biker gang prompts an investigation into criminals using a Texas prison for their own gain in this thriller.

Dan Cowell and his common-law wife, Linda Parker, are enjoying a relaxing life in Key West, Florida. At least until Dan tries stopping bikers from tormenting an elderly couple on the highway, ending with both him and Linda beaten and humiliated. Dan’s friend and fellow Navy vet, Carl Blackadar, who does “discreet” government work, suggests tracking down the gang. This would benefit Carl as well. Dan can ID the main assailant, Tank, whose gang Carl has linked to international theft and murder. Dan agrees; later, his eyewitness status is the likely motive for an assassination attempt against the common-law couple. The two men begin in Ecuador while Linda and her ex-journalist pal (and Carl’s girlfriend), Melanie Olson, investigate the matter separately. Mel believes she’s found Tank in a Texas jail, where the women travel under the pretense of writing a magazine article. Something is clearly wrong with the prison: How can Tank be in other countries if he’s locked up, and why doesn’t Linda recognize him? Things escalate when Dan and Carl get word that the two women have disappeared. McHugh’s (Deadlines, 2010, etc.) novel is brimming with action. Scuffles are quick and startling, while realistically varying in outcomes: some of the fights the good guys win; some they lose; and some involve frying pans. Characters have just as much impact, especially the women; Linda, a Moskita from Honduras, proves a formidable opponent against any attacker. The story initially bounces the perspective between the paired-off characters, but as they gradually split apart (for different reasons), the scenes shorten and the pace increases. Nevertheless, the author adeptly depicts the environment; at the prison, the women trek through “corridors that cradle” a dank musk “of male sweat as well as hints of fecal vapor, stale urine and vomit, all laced by a turpentine reek of Pine-Sol.”

Tight action sequences and a high-energy plot that readers should relish.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9987320-7-7

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Elkheart Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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