Not a pretty picture, but one senses that the author knows what he writes.

T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.

Like the literary equivalent of hardcore rap, this novel depicts thug life in a manner that many will find convincing and others might find disturbing.

The author, a former gang leader born Kody Scott, follows up his bestselling memoir (Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, 1993) with a novel also written from inside a jail cell. Whether he’s writing fiction or nonfiction, his intent is the same: to illuminate the harsh realities and brutalities of the ghetto streets in a manner that justifies if not glorifies the sort of violence that has so many young men anticipating a life of incarceration or early death. His hero is Lapeace, leader of the Eight Tray Crips. Lapeace’s antagonist since boyhood has been Anyhow, a member of the rival Bloods. After Anyhow’s arrest in a burglary attempt, a couple of cops—at least one of them more amoral than any gangbanger—attempt to extort testimony from him against Lapeace. The two had been involved in a notorious massacre in which innocent bystanders were caught in the crossfire. All this seems like ancient history to Lapeace, whose latest lover is Tashima Mustafa, head of RapLife Music, and whose artists are capitalizing on the life that Lapeace knows firsthand. Trouble starts when he learns of Anyhow’s arrest and escalates when he discovers that a tape exists of the massacre that the police may have and in which he can be easily identified. Yet the plot is merely a peg for Shakur’s exploration of the sort of lives commemorated in rap lyrics—what the gang members wear (brand names abound), what they listen to (lots of Tupac), how they talk to each other (lots of code and street slang)—along with the fatalism of those who feel destined to live this life and for whom white America offers no escape. The novel is also a love story, minimizing the caricatured misogyny so prevalent in gangsta rap.

Not a pretty picture, but one senses that the author knows what he writes.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1871-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008

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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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