Padura capably works here in Perez-Reverte territory, where art and ideas meet mayhem. Smart and satisfying though too long...

HERETICS

Cuban mysterian Padura (The Man Who Loved Dogs, 2013, etc.) returns with another installment in his Mario Conde detective series, this one following a Rembrandt portrait over centuries and continents.

Conde, as Padura’s fans know, is a former cop–turned-investigator, suspicious of everyone and everything. It turns out that, to supplement his income as all Cubans on the island must, he’s developed a sideline in the book trade—and has done pretty well for himself as a scout for one Yoyi the Pigeon, an entrepreneurial young “engineer who had never touched a screw or entered any job sites.” It’s in that guise that Conde falls in with a painter, Daniel Kaminsky, who is on the track of a missing treasure: long ago, an ancestor had come into the possession of a small Rembrandt portrait that had traveled with the family across a bitterly anti-Semitic Europe for centuries until arriving in Cuba with a shipload of refugees aboard the ill-fated Saint Louis; that painting, writes Padura, had variously been “a secret, a family heirloom, and, in the end, a jewel on which the last Kaminskys to enjoy owning it would place their greatest hopes for salvation.” Why a Jew of modest means should have been carrying a work of art by the Master in the first place turns out to be the crux of a story that Padura spins off to incorporate numerous threads—in fact, four main strands of them in four separate books that run backward, biblically, from Daniel to Genesis, and that hop from place to place: Havana, Miami, Krakow, Amsterdam. There are real heretics behind the title of Padura’s book, but the term embraces all sorts of outsiders, from Yoyi, who represents something like the fall of socialist man, to young Cuban neo-rebels (“hearing two lesbian confessions on the same day…exceeded his capacity for understanding”) and the hidden marrano Jews of the New World.

Padura capably works here in Perez-Reverte territory, where art and ideas meet mayhem. Smart and satisfying though too long by 100 pages.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-71678-3

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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

BAREFOOT

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.

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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