A great subject imperfectly tamed and controlled. Well worth reading, but not Boyle’s best.

READ REVIEW

THE INNER CIRCLE

The career of sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey, as seen in Boyle’s rangy, entertaining tenth novel—which bears a strong resemblance to his 1993 blockbuster, The Road to Wellville.

The story is narrated in retrospect by John Milk, who first encounters the good doctor in 1939, in the latter’s “Marriage and the Family” course at Indiana University. An initially reluctant “initiate in the science of sex,” John becomes the prize student, disciple, coworker, and occasional lover of the charismatic “Prok” (i.e., Professor Kinsey). While Prok orchestrates the research (mainly, probing interviews) that will culminate in the creation of his Institute for Sexual Research and groundbreaking studies of male and female sexual behavior, John wrestles with his own inchoate erotic nature, the threat of wartime army service, and a difficult relationship with his young wife Iris. Much of this is dizzyingly readable, and Boyle is a past master at transforming scrupulously researched material into crisply funny scenes. We do get to meet several blithely forthcoming female interviewees and Milk’s affable bisexual colleague Purvis Corcoran—as well as eavesdrop on sessions with overeager spouses, curious moppets, and a sexagenarian virtuoso (“The extreme case that gives the lie to the norm”), the last of which allows Boyle to use the line “Dr. Kinsey, I presume?” But it all feels simultaneously labored and underplotted. Reactionary disapproval of Kinsey’s pioneering work rears its head periodically, and there’s little real development otherwise of Boyle’s arresting premise. The best things here are the searching, genuinely complex characterizations of its two protagonists: Prok the grand mal obsessive, as much innovative genius as he is self-indulgent thrill-seeker; and John Milk an ingenuous tabula rasa whose innate humanity keeps him from fully committing to the clinical quantification of how “the human animal” lives and loves.

A great subject imperfectly tamed and controlled. Well worth reading, but not Boyle’s best.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-03344-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A thoughtful and pensive tale with intelligent characters and a satisfying romance.

THE LAST LETTER

A promise to his best friend leads an Army serviceman to a family in need and a chance at true love in this novel.

Beckett Gentry is surprised when his Army buddy Ryan MacKenzie gives him a letter from Ryan’s sister, Ella. Abandoned by his mother, Beckett grew up in a series of foster homes. He is wary of attachments until he reads Ella’s letter. A single mother, Ella lives with her twins, Maisie and Colt, at Solitude, the resort she operates in Telluride, Colorado. They begin a correspondence, although Beckett can only identify himself by his call sign, Chaos. After Ryan’s death during a mission, Beckett travels to Telluride as his friend had requested. He bonds with the twins while falling deeply in love with Ella. Reluctant to reveal details of Ryan’s death and risk causing her pain, Beckett declines to disclose to Ella that he is Chaos. Maisie needs treatment for neuroblastoma, and Beckett formally adopts the twins as a sign of his commitment to support Ella and her children. He and Ella pursue a romance, but when an insurance investigator questions the adoption, Beckett is faced with revealing the truth about the letters and Ryan’s death, risking losing the family he loves. Yarros’ (Wilder, 2016, etc.) novel is a deeply felt and emotionally nuanced contemporary romance bolstered by well-drawn characters and strong, confident storytelling. Beckett and Ella are sympathetic protagonists whose past experiences leave them cautious when it comes to love. Beckett never knew the security of a stable home life. Ella impulsively married her high school boyfriend, but the marriage ended when he discovered she was pregnant. The author is especially adept at developing the characters through subtle but significant details, like Beckett’s aversion to swearing. Beckett and Ella’s romance unfolds slowly in chapters that alternate between their first-person viewpoints. The letters they exchanged are pivotal to their connection, and almost every chapter opens with one. Yarros’ writing is crisp and sharp, with passages that are poetic without being florid. For example, in a letter to Beckett, Ella writes of motherhood: “But I’m not the center of their universe. I’m more like their gravity.” While the love story is the book’s focus, the subplot involving Maisie’s illness is equally well-developed, and the link between Beckett and the twins is heartfelt and sincere.

A thoughtful and pensive tale with intelligent characters and a satisfying romance.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-533-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Entangled: Amara

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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