Archive for February, 2011


A.D. Miller’s noir thriller is nearly impossible to put down once started. Moscow, “that city of neon lust and frenetic sin” is skillfully painted in all its contradictions and juxtapositions. It is “a strange country, Russia, with its talented sinners and occasional saint, bona fide saints that only a place of such accomplished cruelty could produce, a crazy mix of filth and glory.” Nothing is as it seems in this book and ethics are continually stretched to the limit.

February 23, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Character Driven, Debut Novel, Noir, Reading Guide, Russia, Thriller/Spy/Caper


They say there are two sides to every story. In the case of PORTRAITS OF A MARRIAGE, there are three. There is the story of the erstwhile housekeeper cum second wife, Judit; the pragmatic and loving first wife, Ilona; and there is Peter’s story, the husband of wife number one and wife number two, whom we find at the end of the novel, lost and destitute. It is not a complicated story, the one told here; nor is it particularly unique or poignant, though the story is laced with insight. The story told here, the story, as the title suggests, of a marriage, is told in straight-forward narrative, albeit from three perspectives, and set against the fabric of a damaged Hungary between the wars. It is an elegant and beautiful book, a rich tapestry on love, marriage and class. It is, as well, deeply psychological, almost Jamesianly so.

February 22, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, World Lit

THE INTIMATES by Ralph Sassone

Robbie and Maize, the principal characters in Ralph Sassone’s immensely readable debut novel, THE INTIMATES, totally fit the profile of these restless and searching young adults. As the book opens, the two are still in high school; Maize nurses a crush on her guidance counselor and when Robbie’s path crosses hers, it doesn’t immediately amount to much. Robbie is gay—a fact he doesn’t realize until much later in high school.

February 21, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Contemporary, Debut Novel, New York City


With a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton, Guggenheim and MacArthur (genius) awards, several novels, and non-fiction studies of Gödel and Spinoza under her belt, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is nobody’s fool. But I can’t decide whether her decision to populate her latest novel exclusively with people like herself is good or bad. Set in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts, partly at Harvard but mainly at another elite university which might be a fictionalized Brandeis, the entire cast of characters seems to consist of academic philosophers, psychologists, mathematicians, or theologians, all determined to prove that they are smarter than anybody else.

February 20, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, NE & New York, Reading Guide, Theme driven, Unique Narrative, y Award Winning Author

BAD PENNY BLUES by Cathi Unsworth

I’d heard of Jack the Ripper and the Yorkshire Ripper, but before I read British author Cathi Unsworth’s crime novel, BAD PENNY BLUES, I’d never heard of Jack the Stripper. Jack the Stripper was the name given to a serial killer who operated in London during the 60s. His victims were young women–6 in all–whose bodies were found in 1964 and 1965. The crimes–also known as the Hammersmith Murders or the Hammersmith Nudes were never solved, but they had some features in common. The women were prostitutes and they died from strangulation. Some had teeth missing and some of the bodies bore traces of industrial paint. The police eventually connected these 6 murders with two other similar, earlier crimes. They acknowledged that the total murder toll might stretch back to include an unsolved murder committed in 1959, and that a dead woman found in 1963 was possibly yet another victim of the same killer.

February 19, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Mystery/Suspense

GRYPHON by Charles Baxter

At their best, short stories contain all the truth and humanity of novels, rarefied works of formal and thematic elegance rarely achieved by their longer counterparts, and in his latest collection, GRYPHON, Charles Baxter proves himself to be a master of the form. Every story in this collection is as subtle as it is excellent

February 18, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Posted in: Character Driven, Short Stories