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HMMM?

A TALE OF MYSTERIOUS MURRR-DERRR AND A GIRL

A humorous take on genre conventions in which the farce overtakes the mystery.

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An Oklahoma reporter and a fairly novice shamus work a case involving presumed adultery and a strong possibility of murder in Plaster’s (Boobs, 2015, etc.) sendup of traditional whodunits.

Henrietta Hebert, employed at a weekly newspaper in Henryetta, Oklahoma, is sure to be late for her first online course examining classic love tales. She’s waiting on her mom, Wynona Sue, who has exciting news: she’s met the love of her life, professor Alexander Lehough. Two days later, though, Wynona Sue is devastated, certain that Alex is having an affair. She bases this on the fact that Alex said the name “Zander” in his sleep, but she’s unaware that it’s Alex’s name for his own alter ego, with whom he has regular, internal conversations. It also turns out that Alex hasn’t quite divorced his estranged wife, Charlene; meanwhile, she and her lover, Virgil Carter, are in hiding after narrowly escaping a political assassin. Charlene’s attempts to get her hands on Alex’s alleged Nobel Prize winnings lead her to private eye Max Morgan. Alex’s divorce attorney had hired Max, a die-hard fan of TV and film detectives, to track down Charlene. However, Max may have a juicier case involving an anonymous note implying that someone’s been killed. Henrietta, too, investigates—especially after Max accuses her mother of murder. This amusing murder-mystery lampoon largely hits the mark. It’s not really a true mystery to readers, who quickly find out the note’s origin, but they’ll still find it a treat to watch the characters scramble for answers they doubtlessly won’t find; at one point, for instance, Max toys with the idea that the nonexistent Zander is a murder victim. There are some satirical bits, with the best involving Henrietta’s classmates, who use lectures on classic love stories to launch independent stances on sexism and discrimination. Nevertheless, Max is the standout here; he’s so lost in his world of noir that he even mixes up a cop’s name with that of a character in Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series. The author might have used a little restraint, though, as Max’s tough-guy drawl (“For you, Honey, no charrrge”) is relentless; some cultural references can also be excessive, such as an ample recap of the plot of the 2015 sci-fi movie Ex Machina.

A humorous take on genre conventions in which the farce overtakes the mystery.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9914480-6-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Mossik Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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