In fact, there are plenty of surprises along the way. As ever, a solid, unflashy performance by Grisham.

THE RACKETEER

Evenly paced, smart legal thriller—trademark Grisham (The Litigators, 2011, etc.), in other words.

“Secrets are extremely hard to keep in prison, especially when outsiders appear and start asking questions.” So writes Grisham in the voice of one Malcolm Bannister, a one-time attorney who has gotten himself in trouble and is now “halfway through a ten-year sentence handed down by a weak and sanctimonious federal judge in Washington, D.C.” Grisham locates his story on the familiar ground of the racial divide: Bannister, 43 years old, is black, the only black ex-attorney at the Maryland prison camp to which he has been committed—not a bad place, a “resort” in fact as compared to most pens. And, of course, he’s innocent, or so he protests. Bannister also has come by some inside knowledge of events surrounding the death of another federal judge, which links to witness protection, drugs, Jamaicans and some heavy bad guys—and therein lies Grisham’s longish, complex tale of cat and mouse. Every character in the book is believable, and though some of the plot turns seem just a touch improbable, the reader never quite knows whether things are going to work out for Bannister before the heaviest of the heavies quiets him down for good. “I have a plan,” Bannister says, “but so much of it is beyond my control.” That’s not so of Grisham’s plot, which is carefully mapped out without seeming pat, leading to a most satisfying conclusion.

In fact, there are plenty of surprises along the way. As ever, a solid, unflashy performance by Grisham.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-53514-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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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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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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