A gripping mystery with historical and speculative-fiction flourishes that should captivate fans of all three genres.


In Farmer’s debut novel, an alcoholic reporter’s investigation of an old psychiatric hospital unearths many more complex and disturbing mysteries, blending American history, African mythology, mystery and Southern Gothic drama.

Angie McDowell is working on a story about Blytheville State Hospital, a mental institution in Georgia that, before the Civil War, had been a slave plantation. As she begins digging into the hospital’s past, she discovers some disturbing evidence that the plantation owner had been obsessed with evolution and trying to create a hybrid race through regulated breeding. She also begins experiencing visions of what seems to be the ghost of a giant slave woman, Sallie, who has six fingers on each hand and communicates with Angie in hopes that she can be the one to finally put right all the wrongs that had been perpetrated against blacks on this seemingly cursed property. She enlists the help of Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Blake Childs, a former lover of hers, and the two go down a veritable rabbit hole that involves the history of the Blythe family, their slaves, a mysterious undertaking called “Project Nephili” and an archeological dig in Israel. All the while, they cross paths with incredibly dangerous people and risk their lives to uncover the truth. Farmer has crafted an often taut, tense page-turner with an impressively large scope, not only expanding the story to international boundaries but dipping into flashbacks going all the way back to Africa in 1805 and stretching throughout the pre– and post–Civil War eras in the American South. Ultimately, the story incorporates elements biblical, mythological and even paranormal. Although the characters, particularly the shadowy villains, tend to remain more archetypal than fully fleshed out, this debut is a strong first effort marked by ambition and heart. In addition to its eeriness and suspense, it’s also incredibly humane, rendering even the more gonzo revelations palatable

A gripping mystery with historical and speculative-fiction flourishes that should captivate fans of all three genres.

Pub Date: June 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990421627

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Story Merchant

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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