Spenser’s always been as mannered and self-involved as he finds Marlon Brando, but it’s hard to remember a single one of his...

WIDOW’S WALK

When even Pearl the Wonder Dog is slowing down—she’s deaf and arthritic and obviously hasn’t long to live—you have to wonder whether Spenser will ever rouse himself from his recent doldrums (Potshot, 2001, etc.). Not this time.

As usual, though, Boston’s favorite private eye slides into his 30th case as smooth as a knife sinking into butter. The State is convinced that Mary Smith, with her brains and supermodel looks, shot her patrician banker husband Nathan to death even though she claims she was downstairs watching Survivor; her attorney, Rita Fiore, naturally taking Mary’s view of the case, rouses herself from coyly propositioning Spenser long enough to ask him to dig up exculpatory evidence. Spenser’s highly trained response is to ask for a list of Mary’s friends—it’s a long list including very few actual friends—then begin questioning them and, when he notices he’s being followed by a pair of goons, to go on asking pointless questions until one of his conversations goads the goons into acting. The red-flag suspect, Smith financial advisor Brinkman Tyler, is soon dead, along with an unwisely chatty bank officer, an ex-con who claims Mary Smith hired him to ice her husband, and the ex-con’s girlfriend; Spenser himself, not to be outdone, notches up a sixth casualty. But none of his obviously provocative questioning leads anywhere except the morgue and some gay bars catering to seriously underage drinkers until one of his dozen interchangeable suspects implicates another, and the whole house of cards—a complicated, forgettable scam—comes tumbling down.

Spenser’s always been as mannered and self-involved as he finds Marlon Brando, but it’s hard to remember a single one of his earlier cases that provided so few non-Spenser pleasures. The bestselling hero’s earned a rest between hits, of course, but what about the fans who made him a star?

Pub Date: March 18, 2002

ISBN: 0-399-14845-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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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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