THE CHESHIRE MOON

Ferrigno's smoldering The Horse Latitudes was one of the most striking thriller debuts of 1990. His second novel—a splintery tale of murder among California powerbrokers—isn't nearly as good. The author still has a knack, however, for dreaming up robust characters. Quinn—no last name—is a nicely nuanced hero, a reporter for the ``snide, trendy monthly'' SLAP who, despite his aversion to violence, gets tangled up, along with his pretty photographer/sidekick Jen, in a homicidal coverup. But even before the first killing, the plotline veers erratically as Ferrigno devotes pages to Quinn and Jen's covering of a rally of iron- pumping Christians: It's a lively chapter, but one having nothing to do with the rest of the story. This sort of incident-packing plotting—though never again so blatant—marks the narrative as Quinn and Jen butt up against two vigorous villains: sly, seductive Sissy Mizell, a sort of white Oprah, hostess of Straight Talk with Sissy!; and Roy Liston, a hulking ex-pro-footballer who adores Sissy so much that he'll kill to retrieve the mysterious photographs that Sissy's assistant is blackmailing her with. An old pal of Quinn's, a fence of stolen goods, happens upon the murder- -and after the fence is killed in turn by Liston (in a scene of unusual poignancy), Quinn investigates, tracing a crooked trail that leads to the photos and their damning implications for Sissy and her husband, a gubernatorial hopeful. And always one step behind is the strangely sympathetic Liston, a mad yet faithful dog who only wants to do right by his mistress—right up to the double- surprise climax. Lots of action but not much suspense, and Ferrigno's depiction of venal upper-crust California is nothing new; it's mostly when he writes of lowlifes that his words spring to vitality. All in all, then, despite patches of hot prose: an oddly enervated thriller.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 1993

ISBN: 0-688-10314-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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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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Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice,...

LONG DIVISION

A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.

Citoyen “City” Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don’t get along, they’ve qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word “niggardly” and, to say the least, does not provide a “correct, appropriate or dynamic usage” of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word “chitterlings,” so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, “the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings.” Meanwhile, the principal at City’s school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he’s in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City’s humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways.

Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932841-72-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Bolden/Agate

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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