An absorbing and highly charged story of violent payback with considerable collateral damage.


Ex-cops, killers, and junkies collide in and around San Francisco in this thriller.

In Pitts' (Knuckleball, 2017, etc.) novel, 20-year-old Steven suffers a brutal beating by men who steal his weed and leave him lying on gravel in the small town of Willits, California. Quinn McFetridge, a stranger, offers him a ride and a cigarette, but his motives aren’t altruistic. Just out of prison, he tricks Steven into helping him rescue a girl named Teresa, who he claims is his daughter, from living with a speed freak in San Francisco. En route to the city, the ex-con and Steven stop at a vineyard owned by someone Quinn calls an old friend; soon he’s a dead one. Cokehead and ex-cop Maurice Tremblay finds the vineyard owner with a puddle of blood “still growing around his body.” Tremblay discerns Quinn is the murderer. The two share a complicated back story, and for reasons yet unknown to the reader, they both want to find Teresa. Tremblay works for Ricardo Alvarez—aka Richard Allen, “a Mexican cartel guy, supposedly gone legit”—whose tentacles reach into San Francisco’s “City Hall and upward.” Widowed, retired cop Carl Bradley, assisting in finding the vintner’s killer, contacts some sources, and then he too heads to the city, looking for Quinn, Tremblay, and Teresa. Steven finds her among addicts in the Mission District. Frail-looking and bruised from shooting up, Teresa connects with Steven. They go on the run, especially from Quinn, who brutally murders anyone who can identify him. From here, the pace of the lively tale accelerates, and the reason why Teresa is hunted and the truth about her identity are revealed. The characters are well-defined: bored, lonely Carl, devoted to his dog, Buford; Quinn, with an appetite for steak and an appreciation of the power of a muscle car; and fleshy-cheeked Tremblay, a devotee of loose women and top-shelf liquor. The author’s attention to small details is a big plus—a mattress bends under Tremblay’s weight; a reporter’s eyeglasses look opaque with fingerprints—but identifying the make of every vehicle stolen or involved in a chase pockmarks the engrossing text.

An absorbing and highly charged story of violent payback with considerable collateral damage.

Pub Date: June 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943402-84-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Down & Out Books

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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