Great entertainment featuring a well-developed protagonist.

DEAD OF WINTER

In Brandon’s debut thriller, a military man–turned-psychologist searches for a woman who went missing after the 9/11 attacks.

Tom Cavalier earned a doctorate in psychology and is now a therapist back in his old hometown of Rockland, Maine. He’d rebuilt his life following a scandal at West Point, about which a classmate wrote a bestselling book; Tom had refused to turn in a friend for cheating on a test because the same man had saved his life during 9/11. Tom became famous as a result, and one day, a man walks into his office who wants him to find his daughter, Katie Cornwell, who, he claims, may not have died—as presumed—in the twin towers disaster. Tom, who has military police experience, takes the lucrative job. It turns out that Katie did indeed survive 9/11—she wasn’t inside the World Trade Center—but chose a new life and freedom under a new name. However, she may not be the only person who has a secret identity, and as a result, Katie’s life is in danger. Thus begins a thriller that offers one of the scariest, hairiest cat-and-mouse chases in many a moon. Brandon may be a debut novelist, but he has a lot of experience writing screenplays, and it shows in this novel, which has a plot that’s like a fun-house ride. Tom is depicted as appropriately scarred by his difficult life, and his self-deprecating demeanor hides a tough resilience. Katie is portrayed as equally tough and smart, although the villain is over-the-top cartoonish—a person who “went off the deep end and couldn’t make it back to shore,” according to one of Tom’s friends. Still, this type of antagonist comes with the genre territory, and it’s all part of the fun.

Great entertainment featuring a well-developed protagonist.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5085-9081-1

Page Count: 348

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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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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