A heady thriller that gathers force with the understated menace of a tidal wave, then smashes home.

Nefarious

In this debut medical thriller, a pair of Afghanistan War vets investigates mysterious deaths at a research center developing a new rabies vaccine.

Two and a half years ago, in the desert outside Kandahar, a bomb blast rocked the mobile communications van run by Capt. Alton Blackwell of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Only he and Sgt. Zach Lambert, who was off shift at the time, survived. Working through physical therapy, Alton healed with a limp. Reassignment to desk duty in Kabul’s Command and Control division should have been torture, but his friendship with military accountant Mallory Wilson kept him optimistic. Now, Alton and Zach work in Georgia for the telecom security firm Kruptos Inc., and Mallory works for the FBI in Washington, D.C. She and Alton don’t reunite until strange cases of hemophilia—a bleeding disorder—break out near the Georgia-North Carolina border. Zach, who goes camping in the quiet, supposedly secluded area, discovers the source firsthand; scientists from Research Triangle Park spray him with the airborne—as well as still experimental and potentially deadly—Rabinil vaccine. With a craving for justice, Alton the cryptographer and Mallory the forensic accountant team up to investigate the fallout. They follow winding paper and electronic trails while dodging agents with a murderous agenda. Readers will be absorbed by Freeman’s never-flashy expertise: “I have a ‘rabbit hole’ application that...bounces your [laptop’s] signal all over the planet and...renders our current location untraceable for a little while.” The motives of scientists and federal employees are tightly interlocked, and humor peppers their conversations. For instance, when a man named Perkins says that Mallory is cute, Alton says, “No, she isn’t your type.” “What is her type, bro?” Perkins asks, to which Alton replies, “Intelligent.” Occasionally, superb touches of eeriness creep in: “dried leaves blowing across the parking lot began to form patterns, and the details of the investigation soon filled his mind.” One minor failing, however, is that Freeman introduces his principal characters primarily by telling readers about them rather than using dialogue and plot to flesh them out.

A heady thriller that gathers force with the understated menace of a tidal wave, then smashes home.

Pub Date: March 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482048469

Page Count: 174

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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