Victor Carl (Hostile Witness, 1995), defender of Philadelphia's biggest crooks, is still chasing the big score- -this time through the jungles of Belize—but he pauses long enough to explain how it turned out this way. And what an extravagant tale it is. Asked by histrionic megamillionaire pickle heiress Caroline Shaw to prove her sister Jackie didn't hang herself but was murdered, Victor agrees to pursue the case, but only as part of a contract for a wrongful- death suit that will guarantee him a fabulous percentage. Though she won't sign the contract, Caroline offers everything else, from access to her mad family rotting in a decaying mansion called Veritas—a covey of pansexuals who take turns trying to seduce Victor—to the ripe pleasures of her own tattooed, pierced, branded body. But this garden of earthly delights is overrun with snakes. There's the persistent rumor that Caroline's great-grandfather, Claudius Reddman, stole the pickle company from its founder, Elisha Poole, whose heirs have sworn vengeance. There's the discovery of generations-old skeletons in the family closets of Veritas. There's Jackie's $5 million insurance policy, which she signed over to a religious cult whose followers include a pair of transcendental mobsters eager for an earthly payoff. And there's her brother Eddie's indebtedness to a bookie who gets caught in the crossfire between two mob bosses battling for control of the city's rackets. Since Victor's secretly setting up Peter Cressi, another in his endless chain of lowlife clients, for godfather Enrico Raffaello, he ends up getting shot at, too. Amid all this preposterously inventive plotting, Lashner still finds time for cameos of a knowing gardener, a wounded doughboy, an accountant with the soul of a rabbi, a key witness who collects strangers' soiled haberdashery, and a dozen other refugees from gothic melodrama. Deliriously overstuffed extralegal intrigue—though the story moves with a self-approving gravity that suggests a serious weight problem. (First printing of 75,000; $125,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-039147-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet