A sharp and suspenseful novel about a Boston museum theft.

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The Docent

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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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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