Erickson enhances a familiar formula with a keen understanding of his characters and a series of plot turns.

KIDNAPPED

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF CHRISTIAN MCKINLEY

A tense kidnapping thriller that takes a deep dive into the murky waters of criminal psychology.

When Johnny and Craig meet, it’s a match made in hell. They meet as cellmates in prison after lengthy downward spirals into addiction, theft, and other petty crime. Both have histories of abuse, although Johnny has taken on the role of abuser, with Craig as his victim. When they get out of prison, they look for a way to make money and vent their rage, and their plans take a dark turn almost immediately. Concocting a scheme to kidnap Christian McKinley, the adopted grandson of one of Minnesota’s most wealthy citizens, is one thing. But when the two actually snatch Christian from a downtown Minneapolis Hilton and demand a $17 million ransom, the cracks in the ex-cons’ volatile relationship begin to show. And although the two had each pledged to be better fathers than their own were, taking care of an actual young man—one with the power and privilege that they were always denied—brings up more issues than they expected. Their mistrust and anger can only lead to a violent conclusion. Debut author Erickson’s prose is solid, offering several twists and using omniscient third-person narration to its fullest extent to provide insight into the characters—even those who don’t understand themselves. His depictions of the various players are emotionally razor-sharp, and he maintains a consistent narrative voice throughout. That said, his descriptions of psychological stresses can sometimes feel overly clinical, especially toward the beginning of the book: “The psychological damage manifested itself in Craig’s behavior as an adolescent and later as an adult, yet people around him could not read the messages his body was sending. His own messages even confused him and intensified his already fragile self-esteem.” This choice may alienate some readers, but those who like psychological profiling in their crime fiction will enjoy its depth.

Erickson enhances a familiar formula with a keen understanding of his characters and a series of plot turns.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5434-6562-4

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2018

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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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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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