An engaging though didactic tale of faith gone wrong.

The Blood Doctrine

The Poores, a father-son writing team, craft a novel that revolves around a murder investigation, though it’s more so an extensively researched exploration of religion and hate crimes.

One September morning in Utah, James gets the latest in a string of visits from Elder Lee and Elder Jenkins, a pair of Mormon missionaries. James’ revelation that he’s gay gets the missionaries to leave him alone. Lee says he thinks the world would be better off without homosexuals, and Jenkins calmly tries to rebuke him, reminding Lee, “They are still children of God and the Lord does love them.” The next morning, James’ partner finds him on the couch, his throat slashed. Detective Klingensmith is put on the case, and he can’t get the question out of his mind: “Why would a missionary commit murder?” To answer this question, he crisscrosses Utah and delves into some of the more obscure doctrines of the Church of Latter-day Saints, which the Poores back up with meticulous research and citations. In their preface, the authors write, “No religion wants the most outrageous atrocity in American history [the Mountain Meadows massacre, in which a Mormon militia slaughtered over 100 emigrants] shared with their adolescent members, especially the LDS church,” so readers might not expect a nuanced, fair portrait of Mormonism. Thankfully, though, most of the religion’s representatives here aren’t people who would wantonly kill gays. Still, it’s a bit hard to believe that a missionary would commit a heinous crime purely as a result of the intellectual motivations of his church, especially since Lee isn’t a terribly complex villain. Instead, the book—despite its solid, simple writing and quick pace, perfect for a crime novel—focuses too much on digging through Mormon history and theology. Though interesting, it falls short when readers might be looking for more realistic characters and less didacticism. Nevertheless, overall, it’s a captivating, thought-provoking read, willing to deal with tough questions about the roots of evil.

An engaging though didactic tale of faith gone wrong. 

Pub Date: March 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0985842109

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Patterson Crossroads

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2013

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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