An enjoyable, sometimes convoluted mystery with an exemplary protagonist.

TETTERBAUM’S TRUTH

From the Just Call Me Angel series , Vol. 1

In this thriller, a Chicago pub owner learns of her murky past, which puts her and her loved ones in danger.

For the most part, 29-year-old Angel Martin is content with her uneventful life running Tetterbaum’s Pub. She endured heartbreak years ago when her fiance, Tony, broke off their engagement without explanation. It seems all she wants now is her no-strings relationship with Grayson and the occasional setup courtesy of her well-meaning, matchmaking Great Aunt Olga. But Angel’s involvement in a serious car accident changes everything, and not just because of the resultant injuries. The accident precedes intelligence that dangerous individuals have discovered her true identity, though Angel was unaware that her name wasn’t her real one. People close to her, from her employee Andrew to Olga, have been hiding things, namely that her past is tied to the heavy Mafia presence in the area. While information she gets is slow to come and often cryptic, it’s clear Angel is targeted by mobsters, hitmen, and, quite possibly, a corrupt cop. They believe she’s privy to the location of incriminating evidence, as it’s associated with her pub. Getting out alive will require a demanding task: finding someone trustworthy. In this series opener, Claridge (Divine Intervention, 2016, etc.) generates a hefty amount of suspense by providing only Angel’s perspective, which leaves readers equally surprised by plot turns and unexpected deaths. This twisty narrative further molds Angel into a tough but believable protagonist. For example, she can’t evade every thug accosting or abducting her, but she still manages to gradually piece together a puzzle: what specifically the much-desired evidence is. While the story is never outright confusing, a few details are vague, such as the reason Angel is only now at risk when apparently numerous people have known her true identity for quite some time. The author offsets the mob-related action with lighthearted moments courtesy of Olga, who partakes in a daily glass of Jack Daniel’s and sports a discernible raspy voice.

An enjoyable, sometimes convoluted mystery with an exemplary protagonist.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9898467-0-7

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Global Publishing Group LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2018

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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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