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THE LOST BOTTICELLI

Art history buffs will be elated with this gem, but the bold prose and devotion to the genre is all-inclusive.

As an art curator gets close to finally proving the existence of a long-lost painting, he must fend off accusations of theft and a greedy, dangerous man in Stephano’s debut historical mystery.

Daniel Bradley, curator at the Pitman Art Museum, is traveling to Italy as courier for the Donatello’s Christus, a $50-million statue being loaned for a Donatello exhibit. Daniel is also meeting with his old art history professor, Paolo Bertolini, who relays shocking news—two German brothers claim to have a tondo (circular painting) from Botticelli, one that Daniel, who’d written a book on the artist, surmised was lost more than 500 years ago. But Daniel’s troubles have already started: The Christus is gone from its crate upon arrival in Milan, replaced by a cheap bronze statue, and someone may be framing him for the hefty loss. His situation worsens when Werner, one of the brothers, who’s incurred gambling debts, enters the picture. Werner wants to sell the Botticelli painting for personal gain, and that means threatening Daniel, Paolo and art restorer (and Daniel’s old flame) Laura to expedite the authentication process. The novel brims with art history, including details of Botticelli’s past, and hops back in time to the late 15th century, prior to the tondo’s creation, and its history beyond the artist’s death. But the rich historical background never overwhelms the story, thanks to a remarkable mystery, including damning evidence found on Daniel’s computer; comic relief from Daniel’s cynical and flamboyant friend (and fellow art curator) Jeremy; and a startling death, as well as a kidnapping. Pictures of Botticelli’s art are inserted into the book, which should help readers visualize or remember his paintings. Similarly, Daniel’s metaphors are appropriately (and amusingly) art-inspired; some may be lost on the average reader, but most are literarily visual: Sleep eludes Daniel “like a nymph fleeing a satyr in a Renaissance painting.” The novel’s latter pages are noticeably more intense; thugs are actively looking for Daniel and others, and Stephano neatly resolves both the Christus and Botticelli storylines. There are elements, however, left open; Daniel’s relationship with his minister brother, given only a few details, begs for a sequel, while the unsettling ending stands on its own.

Art history buffs will be elated with this gem, but the bold prose and devotion to the genre is all-inclusive.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1926847504

Page Count: 352

Publisher: High Interest Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2014

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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