Solid entertainment courtesy of this thriller’s cold but tenacious protagonist.

THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS

From the Detective Matt Jones series , Vol. 3

In this third installment of a series, a detective’s latest investigation puts him in the crosshairs of a dirty politician and a dangerous man with mob ties.

LAPD detective Matt Jones is on medical leave following a harrowing serial killer case in Philadelphia. Back in Los Angeles, he discovers that his shrink doesn’t think he’s ready to return to the field. As a result of the diagnosis, Matt’s supervisor assigns him a “murder lite.” It’s a body buried in Elysian Park, and cops soon identify 15-year-old Sophia Ramirez. She appears to be the victim of a rape/murder, but none of the evidence points to anyone. Matt does, however, discover a videotaped encounter between Sophia and Robert Gambini, the nephew of crime boss Joseph Gambini. Another buried body guides Matt to DMG Waste Management, a local company, and its three co-owners, who have a mysterious relationship with the younger Gambini. Now the detective surmises DMG is a site for drug distribution, but there’s an unexpected hurdle. Dee Colon, a powerful but corrupt city councilwoman, wants Matt to drop the co-owners as persons of interest in his investigation. This doesn’t prevent the detective from continuing surveillance on the men, so Colon retaliates by targeting his position and threatening to deport Sophia’s grieving parents. The councilwoman later indirectly condemns Matt on TV by making it seem as if he’s unconcerned with solving Sophia’s case. Meanwhile, Robert Gambini may be implementing more violent means to stop Matt; when the detective finds someone willing to talk, an assault in a heavily populated area results in deaths and injuries. Matt rushes to ensnare the murder suspects before he’s unemployed—or worse. With an early focus on the possible murderers, Ellis’ (The Love Killings, 2016, etc.) series entry is more thriller than mystery. The author works this to great effect as the story reveals the burden of unearthing evidence. Matt, for example, is fairly certain he’s found the right men for the crimes, but he must admit to the police chief, at least initially, that he has nothing substantial on them. He nevertheless knows without a doubt that Colon is deceitful, but she’s evidently too influential to touch, making her the tale’s most formidable villain. When Matt denies her unfounded accusations (including planted evidence), Colon says with a smile, “The trouble is that no one will ever believe it.” Ellis generates an impressive amount of suspense, particularly when Matt is trailing suspects: In one scene, he follows someone in a car, repeatedly altering his speed to maintain a reasonable distance before ultimately continuing on foot. As a detective, Matt is determined and typically humorless; he asks people direct questions and is often blunt. This makes for a somber narrative, especially coupled with Matt’s enduring Colon’s televised character assassination as well as a beat down or two. But the detective’s frankness also leads to brief conversations that, along with periodic action sequences, provide the book with a swift pace. Although this installment is not closely tied to the preceding two novels, its ending implies that Matt’s multivolume tale is far from over.

Solid entertainment courtesy of this thriller’s cold but tenacious protagonist.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-08-199925-4

Page Count: 334

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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