Annoyingly repetitious, especially at midpoint, but amply rewarding at the end—which, of course, is the beginning.

IN THE COMPANY OF LIARS

The author of Jury of One (2004), etc., returns with another thriller in which past really is prologue.

Perhaps taking his cue from the film Memento, which tells its story in reverse chronology, Ellis launches his latest with the climaxes of a case that began 11 years earlier. Then, in a series of flashbacks, he works through the clues behind the clues that led to these two events. In the first, the body of best-selling novelist Allison Pagone is found in a blood-splattered bathroom, an apparent suicide. In the second, American forces in the Sudan nab elusive terrorist leader Mushan al-Bakhari in “a moment for which all Americans have waited for years” (meaning Mushan is you know who). How are the events connected? Ellis takes a while to tie these threads together. Initially, he focuses, as in prior novels, on political corruption. Pagone, it seems, killed herself after murdering a lover who was about to finger her ex-husband for bribing U.S. senators to influence their votes on legislation favoring a drug company. One of her earrings turns up at the crime scene, as does a strand of hair bearing her DNA. She also had hacked into the victim’s computer to make it seem he sent her an e-mail that, in turn, she can use as an alibi. Ellis practically drums these and other clues into the reader, perhaps having trouble getting up to speed in reverse. Eventually, he eases up as the terrorism angle becomes integral. It’s revealed that a doctor plans to spike the drug company’s baby aspirin with an undetectable, fatal poison. Plans to foil that plot explain all that precedes and may send some readers back to page one to see how nothing was what it seemed.

Annoyingly repetitious, especially at midpoint, but amply rewarding at the end—which, of course, is the beginning.

Pub Date: April 7, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-15247-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more