A crime tale featuring a protagonist whose desire for normalcy makes him sympathetic and appealing.



In LeBlanc’s debut crime novel, a young Canadian can’t escape the gangster life after fleeing to America, where he continues to attract Mafioso types.

Jean Paul Comeau’s teenage years in Kensington, Canada, are rife with crime. His best friend, Armstrong, leads him and others in a gang, but Jean Paul prefers academics to illicit activities. A blood oath keeps him loyal, however, and he even becomes the group’s accountant. But when a motorcycle gang thinks that Jean Paul stole something from them, he takes refuge in New York City with his uncle. Jean Paul works blue-collar jobs and makes a stop in New Jersey to visit Debbie, a girl he’d fallen for back in Canada. Debbie’s dad, Mr. Mancini, gets Jean Paul better work, but soon it’s markedly clear that the “errands” he has the young man running are for the benefit of the mob. Despite all the criminal activity, however, the plot focuses on more emotional, dramatic elements: Jean Paul buys groceries for his mother and little sisters, as his father’s excessive drinking has rendered the cupboards bare; he befriends an American bookstore owner, Martin, who assigns him reading material for later discussion; and he cherishes summers in Gondola Point in Canada, away from the crime-ridden projects where he lives. The book opens with gangsters’ violent attacks as they search for Jean Paul, and LeBlanc tells the first half of the story in flashback, building readers’ anticipation until the incident that puts Jean Paul in the cross hairs. Jean Paul seems to believe that he can leave his criminal past behind, although he misses the irony that his acceptance into the Mancini family has tied him to another “Family.” But LeBlanc makes his protagonist’s inability to break free from gangsters credible and shows how the boy’s own thuggish behavior, such as beating up a high school boy for spreading lies about Debbie, stems from his father’s prior abuse. Conversely, Jean Paul’s relationship with Debbie is less convincing; he rarely expresses his feelings for her, even to himself, and although he speaks rather eloquently with Martin, he sums up his romance with the phrase: “Wow. It’s been bitchin’. I mean, really, really great.”

A crime tale featuring a protagonist whose desire for normalcy makes him sympathetic and appealing.

Pub Date: June 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491735121

Page Count: 396

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2014

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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