A resonant, character-driven mystery that proves a worthy series entry; recommended.

DESERT SANCTUARY

A DETECTIVE SANCHEZ/FATHER MONTERO MYSTERY

A shootout with gang members results in an unexpected outcome and a lot of trouble for a young Arizona detective in this sequel.

Phoenix detective Lori Sanchez, “sweating like a porker in the heat of the evening,” doesn’t think there’s enough backup for the drug bust set up by Capt. Ronald Gurvy of the South Metro Gang Unit. Sanchez’s concerns increase when Roberto “Criatura” Gomez, the criminals’ “top guy,” shows up with a heavily armed posse for a minor drug deal. After all hellfire breaks lose, Gurvy chases Gomez into a junkyard. Sanchez, in delayed pursuit in the darkness, trips over a downed Gurvy. Both he and Gomez are dead. Ballistics reports show the bullets that killed each man match. “They were both shot by the same gun—the same shooter,” says Jeff Bordou, Sanchez’s partner. After the gunfight, Sanchez and Bordou can’t locate their snitch, Eduardo, for questioning, and her apartment is ransacked. The thieves stole not much of value, but they apparently hid something in her apartment—the gun that killed Gurvy and Gomez. When the cops find and ID the weapon, suspicion falls on Sanchez, who relies on her dear friend Father Guillermo Montero for comfort and counseling. He knows Father Juan “John” Ortega, a local priest whose church grounds offer asylum for two dozen refugees from El Salvador and one newcomer, a local man who says he needs protection but may have gangland ties. Baker’s (An Imperfect Crime, 2018, etc.) images are rich, as when he describes Arizona’s deserts, casinos, or even a precinct secretary’s desk—“one of those old steel ones in the shade of battleship gray. It, like Margaret, was formidable.” The book’s pacing is superb, starting out strong with the gunfight, retreating a bit, then bringing in more firepower. Timeliness of content stands out, as Father John offers a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, who are subjected to violence. The series gets bonus points for its ethnic lead characters: a strong female cop and a sympathetic priest who share “similar interests and a love for Mexican beers and good food.”

A resonant, character-driven mystery that proves a worthy series entry; recommended.

Pub Date: May 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949336-12-2

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Other Voices Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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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

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