ROB THE VATICAN

Politics, romance, and murder descend on the Vatican as a jewel thief works to pull off the biggest heist in history.
Craig Reynolds, a dashing and enigmatic jewel thief who “aborts elaborate alarm systems, unlocks the most intricate vaults, and eludes massive manhunts,” has stumbled on a golden opportunity. On a train to Rome, he runs into Darlena Aldonzo, a beautiful Italian gymnast who had previously been his hostage—the sense of mutual respect and admiration that led him to release her is now blossoming into something more. Unable to resist his charms, Darlena goes against her better judgment and agrees to spend time visiting the eternal city with her former captor. She even takes him to meet her dear friend Thad, a priest who currently works at the Vatican. Thad conveniently reveals to Craig that he is the only person alive who possesses a map of the Vatican’s vast underground catacombs—a chance Craig can’t pass up. As Darlena allows herself to be drawn into Craig’s plans, a terrible danger brews in the background and threatens to complicate the heist and put all of their lives in danger: a group of ruthless cardinals is plotting to usurp the pope. Meanwhile, INTERPOL Detective Martin Von Meier, who has been chasing Craig for years, is getting closer. Gallant has created likable main characters who careen from one unbelievable scenario to the next, but his emphasis is clearly on their predicaments. Within the first 20 pages of meeting Darlena, she is almost drowned, almost raped, almost strangled, kidnapped, and finally chased by a gang of rioters “plundering” a commuter train—all before the main plot begins. The rest of the novel follows this aggressive pattern, delivering well-staged, suspenseful action sequences in rapid succession but leaving little time for much else. Craig’s disabled sister, for example, vanishes from the novel. Some may be disappointed that Gallant didn’t devote more time to the intriguing relationship between his two leads, but those who love page-turning thrillers will be delighted that, for these characters, danger lurks everywhere.
A thriller that delivers real excitement but glosses many gripping plot points.

Pub Date: May 14, 2007

ISBN: 978-0595439249

Page Count: 234

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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