A smart and satisfying archaeological thriller in the vein of Dan Brown.

Travels in Elysium

A Greek archaeological dig holds deep secrets.

At the beginning of Azuski’s (The Rose-Tinted Menagerie, 2012) latest novel, 22-year-old Nicholas Pedrosa is fresh out of college. He’s stuck in a dead-end real estate job in England when he applies for a job on an archaeological dig on the Greek island of Santorini under the direction of the legendary archaeologist Marcus James Huxley. His interview with Huxley’s frosty Russian assistant, Svetlana Bé, goes so poorly that Pedrosa assumes he’s not getting the job—until boat tickets and travel details arrive in the mail. He travels to Greece, intrigued to learn along the way that Huxley’s expedition has uncovered mysterious 5,000-year-old hieroglyphics at the site. Curiosity turns to dread when Pedrosa arrives at Santorini only to find Huxley and his associates attending a funeral—the funeral of Huxley’s previous young assistant. Pedrosa gets a decidedly unfriendly reception from the great man, and he’s promptly confronted with two mysteries—What actually happened to his predecessor? And what happened to all the ancient inhabitants of the city that was buried in a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago on the site of Huxley’s dig? The homes and workplaces of those ancient inhabitants are perfectly preserved, but unlike other famous disaster sites, such as Pompeii, there’s no trace of any people. Azuski knits these plotlines together with considerable skill, contextualizing them within the wider philosophical background of a search for Plato’s mythical lost city of Atlantis and infusing them with plenty of memorable descriptions (“The dawn chorus woke me at five,” Pedrosa says, “Athens’ version of it, that is, cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes racing the clock, chasing the sunrise”). The imperious Huxley and his private agenda dominate the plot, and the baffled, inquisitive Pedrosa eventually becomes a hero to root for as he navigates the various personalities of Huxley’s dig team. Ongoing digressions into Santorini’s distant past jar at first but ultimately reinforce the novel’s taut, well-constructed climax.

A smart and satisfying archaeological thriller in the vein of Dan Brown.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-3952401521

Page Count: 540

Publisher: Iridescent Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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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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