Nancy McKibben's Reviews > All the Dead Yale Men

All the Dead Yale Men by Craig Nova
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really liked it
bookshelves: suspense, reviewed, literary-fiction
Recommended for: readers who like suspense, literary fiction, Cambridge/Ivy League setting

All the Dead Yale Men
By Craig Nova

Here it is, a book that I really liked, by an author I’d never heard of, who has written 14 other novels, only one of which I am familiar with - The Good Son. All the Dead Yale Men is a sequel, so I will be sure to go back and read the original, which is his most acclaimed work. (And how have I not known about this author all these years? I feel cheated.)

What do you do if you are the district prosecutor in Boston and you find yourself “in trouble” and on the way to ask your father for advice, he dies of an aneurysm? And before you can follow him to the hospital, the police call to say that your colleague is poised to jump from Tobin Bridge, and wants to speak to you only? And your brilliant, beautiful only daughter, who should be entering Harvard Law in the fall, is threatening instead to take off with a small time crook and hustler?

If you are Frank Mackinnon, you read Thucydides. You row alone on the Charles River. You visit the family property in the woods near Delaware and you read the journals that your grandmother stashed in the attic. And you consider doing something stupid.

What struck me through the first chapters was the accelerating sense of dread. For example, from Frank's dad, Chip:
'I’ll give you a little word of advice, Frank,' he said. 'It’s Chip Mackinnon’s third rule. I’ve never mentioned it before. But this is it: the truth is a dangerous substance.'
From Frank:
Sometimes it is all a muddle. Or, maybe it is better to say that I have discovered some rules, too, and one of them is that events, particularly trouble, don’t come with an even distribution, but in clumps, as though one large event has a gravity that attracts others.
From Frank again, upon meeting his daughter's boyfriend:
So there it was: not the thing I was always afraid of, but a new aspect I had never dreamed of. And it’s at moments like this, when you stand at the abyss, where all the potential is right there, that you realize what it means to love someone. The shock, of course, is that you think you understand this, but you don’t really until that dark tentacle, that change in light, that possibility of a horror that is at once so ordinary and so appalling has made itself apparent. It walks in the door and tries to look like Kurt Cobain.

Nova’s prose knocks me out. “We went downhill in that light just before dawn, which is not the darkest, but the most blue, with the trees emerging like imploring shapes, the limbs black on blue as though that world with all the phantoms gives up its hold on earth grudgingly. . .” and so on. I could spend my whole review quoting.

The characters are flesh and blood. We care about them and their struggles, especially the hapless narrator, who has brought his troubles on himself. (Something we can all identify with, no doubt.) We wish that we could figure out to solve his problems, and we hold our collective breath as we read, hoping that things turn out all right, but afraid they won’t.

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Reading Progress

July 8, 2013 – Started Reading
July 9, 2013 – Finished Reading
July 12, 2013 – Shelved
July 12, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed
July 12, 2013 – Shelved as: suspense
July 23, 2013 – Shelved as: literary-fiction

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Ward (new)

Ward I'm reading it now, so I won't try to comment other than to say he has a somewhat unusual way of skipping around his family history. Some characterizations are more vivid than others, but his hair salon owner and employee, their dogs, are when interacting a wonderful, at times laugh out loud scene.

Nancy McKibben Yes, he does skip around!

Thinking about it after I read it, I thought that it was, in a way, a "guy" kind of book. All the father-son hunting scenes. The drinking. The protecting of the womenfolk. Which is not to say I didn't like the book, I did, and it didn't strike me that way while I was reading, just afterwards.


message 3: by Ward (new)

Ward There aren't many "guy kinds of books" these days, though mine is. It has, I'm sure, to do with the 75% readership of women, or at least that's what I've seen in more than one publication. Oddly enough, a women's magazine, "Focus on Women,"has taken an interest in publishing The Way Up. A few of their readers had read it and wanted it listed among the four chosen for promotion, the magazine does this for 4 months, I'm trying to get the ebook in shape now.

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