ALL FALL DOWN

A lone sociopath seizes a school bus carrying 27 handicapped children, and the world's eyes focus on a small town in the California desert for an edgy 48 hours. When Las Cruces wakes up to the fact that a busload of its most vulnerable kids is missing, the authorities, frantically assembling their meager resources, call in the FBI. Sergeant Ellen Camacho (one of two detectives on the local police force) is put in charge of the case by Chief Paul Whitehorse (her lover as well as boss). In addition to sorting out jurisdictional conflicts with the feds and the sheriff's department, Ellen (a single mother who worked three years as a Los Angeles cop) must deal with distraught parents and a pack of ravening journalists. Meantime, she and her colleagues are frustrated by the lack of immediate demands from the perpetrator—which is precisely what the deranged kidnapper, Lowell Alexander DeVries, intends. An above-suspicion resident of Las Cruces, he exults in the chaos his careful planning has created. Although under the gun of a de facto deadline because of the captive children's medical needs, law-enforcement agencies can do precious little but dance to the kidnapper's tune. Finally, the murderous DeVries (a pedophile with a host of imagined scores to settle) submits his ransom requirements: a small fortune in one- carat diamonds and used bills. Matt LaSalle, the FBI's vaultingly ambitious man on the scene, arranges for the transfer of the cash and stones, which DeVries insists must be delivered by Ellen (whose daughter he's also abducted). The distraught but resourceful investigator sets out on the roundabout route DeVries has mapped. Under cover of darkness, she's able to upset his timetable and force a violent confrontation in the Mojave's desolate foothills. An absorbing suspenser from newcomer Fox that makes especially vivid use of setting and of its countdown format.

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-57566-139-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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

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