When veterinarian Liza Borden, of the Delaney Institute for the preservation of endangered species, is found holding the ax that killed her best friend, Abby Meyer, in the storied town of Fall River, Mass., you may think you're in for a vigorous reworking of the Lizzie Borden legend. No such luck: This placid whodunit couldn't care less about nice-as-pie Liza (``No one who could make outrageous bilingual puns could be an ax murderess,'' we're reassured), unholy family passions, or even historic Fall River. Instead, Liza's brother, Ira Grossman, calls on Brian Donodio (Death in a Far Country, 1993) to dig up evidence that will vindicate her; and Brian's formidable array of irregular deputies- -especially his meddlesome daughter Deirdre, his zoologist friend Prof. Philander Dobbs, and Liza's flamboyant lawyer Rebecca Betancourt Delgado—run away with the show, easily stealing the thunder of the forgettable suspects who are scheming, presumably, to close down the Delaney and make off with its endowment. Despite a promising episode starring a monomaniacal college president who's kidnapped three bears to drive his men's-studies fantasies and incidentally cure his impotence, the mystery is over before it ever gets off the ground, and the plaudits Brian earns from People magazine (``AMERICA'S WIMSEY: DONODIO VIEWS THE BODY'') seem, well, premature. Dim suspects are no match for MacGill-Callahan's cozy legion of detectives in this oppressively prim slice of Americana.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-11362-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet