The Docent

A sharp and suspenseful novel about a Boston museum theft.

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A judge, an eager young law clerk, and a museum docent find themselves caught up in one of the most notorious art heists in history in this legal thriller.

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, thieves broke into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and made off with more than a dozen priceless works, including paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Degas, then promptly vanished. Kenny (The Morning Line, 2014) takes that infamous unsolved crime as inspiration for his second novel. Most of the action takes place more than a decade after the theft, in courtrooms and law offices around Boston. Judge Zelia Valdes is presiding over an ugly brawl between opposing sides of the powerful Theopoulis family. When the ruling doesn’t go the way the patriarch, Cosmo, hoped (he stands to lose nearly $1 billion because of the judge’s decision), his attorney, the talented, ambitious, and morally flexible Roger Metcalf, vows to make things right (“In every war the winner will lose a few battles. It’s the big picture that counts”). That means taking down Valdes, her naïve clerk Tony Cipriano, and anyone else who stands in the way. And when Metcalf’s sketchy associates start digging into Valdes’ past, they discover that the attractive widow has a strange connection to the unsolved art heist. Art buffs and thriller fans should want to plunge into this ripped-from-the-headlines effort. The author, himself a practicing lawyer, clearly knows his way around a courtroom, though he occasionally slips into legalese that might elicit yawns from the average reader. His imaginative theory about what really happened to the missing Gardner paintings is implausible and the business of uncovering the crime somewhat convoluted. A few characters—Metcalf’s wife, Jennifer, and Cosmo’s daughter Angie—are introduced early on and then unceremoniously dropped. Yet when the main players are this engaging (or in the case of Metcalf, loathsome) and the plot this zippy, these are minor quibbles. A few musings on the power of art to heal and soothe the soul are thrown in for good measure, though a bit more detail about the missing paintings that drive so much of the action would have been welcome.

A sharp and suspenseful novel about a Boston museum theft.

Pub Date: March 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5169-3114-9

Page Count: 276

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2016

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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