Alexander stumbles badly in his second outing (God's Adamantine Fate, 1993) with a tepid tale of industrial espionage and international terrorism. Scientist George Jeffers has developed a new enzyme that promises to be the building block for numerous industrial applications, including gene-splitting and possible cancer cures. Now, however, it's disappeared in Europe—along with its courier. Traveling to Boston to provide a CIA operative with background information on the enzyme, Jeffers meets Taylor Redding, an adventurer looking for another challenge. She saves him from an assassination attempt, and the pair decide that they must track down the enzyme themselves. Their search takes them to Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Iceland, in all of which they leave behind the standard body count as they fend off the many bad guys trying to kill them. Then, with the aid of a German scientist, Jeffers and Redding discover that the enzyme is somehow connected to a fascist political organization in Germany, to the former East German Secret Police, and to a terrorist group (with ties to the KGB) trying to smuggle a load of weapons into Iceland. Naturally, these thugs to a one want the scientist and his protector dead. Jeffers is completely inept throughout, while Redding turns out to be an expert pilot, smuggler, knife fighter, and marksman who also speaks numerous languages and knows the history and politics of every country they visit—all at the ripe old age of 25. Meanwhile, the plot clunks along unmercifully, one improbable scene following another. The wild coincidences and plodding narrative could be efforts to satirize the genre that Ludlum and others have worked so well, except that the novel is far too thin and wan for even traces of irony to run in its veins. Sluggish, bloodless high points—and few of those.

Pub Date: July 15, 1995

ISBN: 1-55611-449-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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

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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.


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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