Much more contrived and straining to be hip than Maxx’s debut (Sweet Man is Gone, 2008). Probably just as well if that CD...


The Manhattan blues scene—in more ways than one.

The CD Rick Schneider promised Maxx Maxwell that his company Prowling Rooster Records would make to launch her little blues band into the festival orbit hasn’t materialized. When Maxx goes looking for Rick to find out what happened to the CD and the $1,000 she paid him to produce it, he’s nowhere to be found, and his co-partners, Ben and Steve, claim they know nothing about it. Rick, as savvy readers will suspect, is, alas, a corpse, found by Maxx, who, in between waiting tables and gigs with her group, Maxximum Blues, is determined to find that CD master. If that means she has to unravel the mystery of Rick’s death, so be it. The cops think the mob hit him for pirating CDs. Maxx suspects everyone else, from Ben and Steve to Rick’s sweetie, Brenda Honeycut, and even his daughter. Her snooping leads back 20 years to Rick’s days with his own musical group, which broke up after some disagreements over who wrote which songs and who was sleeping with whose girl. Eventually Maxx, all kooky wardrobe and ear-grating slang, solves a mystery that baffles the cops and moves on to her next gig.

Much more contrived and straining to be hip than Maxx’s debut (Sweet Man is Gone, 2008). Probably just as well if that CD stays missing. 

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59414-932-9

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Five Star/Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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