THE KING’S EVIL

Heinrich’s debut turns on dread but opens with light and air.

Joseph S. Malderoyce (“king’s evil”), at 17, has spent four years thinking himself a painter. But visits to a Mondrian exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art dissuade him from pursuing a future in art. He becomes instead, like his father, a lawyer, with a dried-up life of friendless study and work stretching ahead. Twenty years later, Father and Mother both die of TB within hours of each other, leaving Joseph wealthy. Not yet middle-aged, he retires, moves out to tiny Bettley (despite the MOMA, in some imaginary country), buys a house, and becomes a country gentleman, making only two friends but nonetheless gaining a sense of release on his morning walks. One stormy night, twisted but charismatic young Abel Rufous (“reddish,” as in TB), a tremendously bruised runaway, his face old, his body young, falls asleep on Joseph’s back porch after having broken into Bettley’s one store, drunk some wine, eaten some bread, and peed inside on the door. (Add a reddish-brown shade, as in dried blood, to your sense of Mondrian’s color balances.) Joseph writes that “he did not seem to me to be asleep. Because I had dreams of violent motion and color, I had always conceived of sleep as being dynamic, but this sleeping boy was frozen.” He looks wan but hints of darkness. Is Abel some coughed-up chunk of Joseph (who, since his parents’ deaths, has developed an obsession with mycobacteriology), a shadow-being long suppressed in his character, and indeed never suspected? Joseph finds himself in love with intelligent but boorish Abel, and after a month he loves having him in his house. Poisonous, loveably bright Abel, a child once beaten and abandoned, now a charmingly insufferable changeling, a tyrant adolescent and troll out of Grimm.

Shiver, reader. Shake.

Pub Date: July 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-3504-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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