Written with care, though Billingham may need to switch the formula soon.

LAZYBONES

London police inspector Tom Thorne (Scaredy Cat, 2003) goes up against another sadistic killer—though this time the pulse hardly quickens.

Just as grumpy as he was in his previous outing, Thorne is also a little lonelier and randier: a combination that won’t serve him well in the trap that’s set for him. A murderer with a hard-to-suss motive has started snuffing convicted rapists who’ve been released from prison. He (they think it’s a he) likes to whet the rapists’ appetites with suggestive correspondence and pictures, then lure them to a hotel and—well, the details are a bit rough. Let’s just say there’s little for Thorne and his all-too-human squad at the Metropolitan Police Service (normally a pretty sensitive cop, Thorne fondly remembers a time when they were a “force” and not a “service”) much to go on. Compounding the lack of workable clues is the fact that it’s hard for most people (readers included) to whip up much sympathy for the victims, and when Fleet Street gets a whiff of the story, the tabloids can’t congratulate the killer enough for his deeds. And, just to make Thorne’s personal life (a long, sad round of takeout curry, football on the telly, and cans of lager) even more desolate, his apartment gets burgled and his car stolen. About the only thing looking up for him is the sputtering flirtation he’s carrying on with Eve, a florist who telephoned in the first murder scene Thorne was called to (the killer likes to order bouquets). What the author has going for him is an unusually character-rich policeman who carries some of the gravitas of a George Pelecanos or James Lee Burke protagonist without those authors’ tendencies toward morose self-involvement. Frustratingly, though, the plot is stalled as often as Thorne’s relationship with Eve, and the climax’s big surprise is telegraphed about a hundred pages too early.

Written with care, though Billingham may need to switch the formula soon.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-056085-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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