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In his cool, prosaically loping fiction debut, Texas journalist Draper easily entraps the reader in a Lone Star State prison town rancid with lies, corruptions, and cover-ups. Draper’s most vivid creation is Shepherdsville itself, with its economy, employment rolls, social life, and gossip all based on the business of punishment as conducted in a variety of institutions strung around the town like a golden yoke. Within these institutions, laws are routinely warped to satisfy prison director Sonny Hope, who as the story opens has pardoned Hadrian Coleman eight years after his escape from jail. While on the run, Hadrian has been cleared of the murder of a fellow inmate, but Sonny hasn’t pardoned his boyhood friend out of charity: he needs Hadrian to eliminate Ricky Tempesta, another former inmate, whose business ventures are squeezing Sonny’s turf. Some shady deals have gone down between Sonny and Ricky, Hadrian discovers, that threaten to end Sonny’s career, perhaps his life. The prison director has always trusted Hadrian, who killed a judge to save Sonny’s life and then took the fall without mentioning his friend’s involvement. Hadrian remains loyal; if he completes this last, dirty job for Sonny, he thinks, maybe he can finally be free to shape his own destiny. Of course, the complicities between Sonny and Tempesta run deeper and spring from motives more obscure than Hadrian knows. The author masterfully shows Shepherdsville’s strange logic of power and fear as it encompasses each new, slowly revealed fact and the people who come to know it. In the end, Hadrian’s soul is cleansed, his name is cleared, and he gets a good woman—a conclusion that seems jarringly sunny after the delicious varieties of malice we—ve seen festering. Still, getting there provides sooty, ragged, fearsome reading pleasure. A breezy encounter with human darkness, carried on by the lilt of Draper’s choice prose. (First printing of 60,000)

Pub Date: May 17, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-40369-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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