A powerful and assured first novel that is both a hard-edged noirish crime drama and a startling exploration of the complex ties of family and place. Paddy Adare, a former boxer, is a blithe enforcer for Jack Tierney's Irish mob headquartered in Manhattan's unforgiving Hell's Kitchen. It's the 1980s, and New York is enjoying a construction boom: Jack, Paddy, and their associates make a good living shaking down builders and manipulating unions. This new venture does not, of course, stop Jack from pursuing (in a bloody, sometimes inept manner) such enterprises as drug dealing and murder for hire. Billy, Paddy's younger brother, has by contrast managed to pull himself out of Hell's Kitchen, ignoring the appeal of the violent life: He has worked his way through college and has been accepted to law school. As the novel opens, he's putting in one last summer as a sandhog on Water Tunnel Number Three, the excavation of an immense tunnel eight hundred feet below ground, designed to bring water to New York City. The Adare patriarch died in an accident in the tunnel years before, and Billy views his time there as a way of reaffirming his roots and his family identity. The brother's paths cross when the repellent new contractor in charge of the project (a fanatic Reaganite) decides to break the sandhogs' union to lower his costs, calling on the services of the Mafia. The Mafia in turn subcontracts the work out to Tierney's mob, and Paddy is suddenly caught between family and business. An escalating series of betrayals and murders leads to a gripping showdown between Billy, Paddy, and a maddened Jack in an unfinished skyscraper. Kelly's criminals are vivid and convincing, as memorable as Elmore Leonard's or George Higgins's killers and hustlers. More importantly, his portrait of the last vestiges of Irish blue-collar life in New York is detailed and authoritative. A fresh, distinctive debut. (First printing of 75,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-45051-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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