An atmospheric, smoky, sepia-toned whodunit, though more for fans of Camus than Chandler.


“Around us, you’re in danger of catching leprosy”: French Nobel Prize winner Modiano (Villa Triste, 2016, etc.) explores the criminal demimonde in a short but potent novel that’s as elegant as Claude Rains and as sinister as Peter Lorre.

An aspiring writer. A young woman with a mysterious past. An older man with nice clothes. The setup is classic Modiano, reminiscent of earlier works such as In the Café of Lost Youth. Originally published in French in 2012, five years after that predecessor volume, this novel turns on familiar elements. Jean, just beginning his career as a writer, carries a little notebook at all times, with jottings that occasionally intimate literature but more often serve as reminders of people he’s met and dates he has to keep, most notably with Dannie, a waiflike young woman whose every breath carries hints of dark secrets and the memory of a particular “nasty incident” about whose nature Jean can only guess. Is Dannie just light-fingered or with a finger on the trigger? It doesn’t help that the man called Aghamouri, who haunts hotels staffed by whispering Maghrebians and wears a beautiful camel coat, drops hints that give Jean the willies or that a police detective doesn’t bother to hide his professional interest in Dannie and her associates. Why does Dannie have access to a country estate? Why doesn’t Aghamouri ever have dinner with his wife? And, if he’s 30 years old and has a wife, what’s he doing hanging around college, apart from keeping an eye on Dannie, whom the world has nothing left to teach? The questions mount. It’s good that American publishers are catching up to Modiano’s recent works, having mined his output from the 1970s and beyond, but it’s a touch curious that this late-period Modiano seems bound up in old formulas, like a more literary but no more cheerful Simenon.

An atmospheric, smoky, sepia-toned whodunit, though more for fans of Camus than Chandler.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77982-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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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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