A sharp and suspenseful novel about a Boston museum theft.

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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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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