A remarkable premise for a scientific mystery, hampered by some confusion about the characters’ allegiances.

CAMPANILISMO

CRIME AND INTRIGUE IN INTERNATIONAL BIOTECH

A drug company scientist heads to Malaysia to investigate deaths in a clinical trial for a new cholesterol drug in this debut novel.

Frank Serono, a senior scientist at New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Annexin, is excited about the prospects for the company’s new wonder drug. The innovative formula has been shown to raise HDL, or good cholesterol, levels and could prevent and reverse atherosclerosis. Unfortunately, an unusually large number of people have died during the clinical trial in Malaysia, and Frank is sent to Kuala Lumpur to talk to the doctors and seek patient records. Accompanied by Annexin’s clinical investigator, Dr. Ethan Sapirstein, Frank finds that a few boxes of patient records have disappeared from the Malaysian facility, and the staff cannot explain how or why they could’ve vanished. As two shady businessmen, also from New Jersey, meet with drug providers in Kuala Lumpur in the hopes of becoming internet pharmaceutical distributors, there is a series of shocking murders. Ethan and three others are found dead, causing Annexin’s leadership to demand more answers from the perplexed Malaysians. From his home base in New Jersey, Frank watches in distress as his hopes for the new drug slowly disintegrate while he seeks those who killed his colleagues. And he conducts even more research, looking for a new yet elusive drug. Curatolo, himself a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, has concocted a terrific premise for a science thriller and murder mystery, full of illuminating but sometimes alarming insights into the drug development and medical fields, along with the addition of some unsavory characters in the pharmaceutical distribution world. The scientific discussions and the plotlines surrounding DNA sequencing and drug research are informed yet not overly technical. But the structure of the novel is a bit more problematic, as the story shifts gears halfway through and one of the villains becomes more of a protagonist. Though a good deal of effort is expended to make the new scenario convincing, the move casts doubt on the tale’s direction and perspective. The author explains that campanilismo is an Italian philosophy: “That everything important in life occurs within the area from which you can see the bell tower (It. campanile) of your town.” Frank’s research goes deeper and deeper yet the book’s central metaphor, taken from the title, never really resonates.

A remarkable premise for a scientific mystery, hampered by some confusion about the characters’ allegiances.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9896566-0-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Bayberry Institute LLC

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2018

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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