An occasionally implausible romantic spy thriller that delves into the complexity and power of grief.

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BREATHE

In Wolf’s debut novel, an Israeli woman tries to forget her past as she pursues a career as an undercover Mossad operative.

What’s the statute of limitations on grief? For Dani, five years is still not enough to erase the memory of Dylan, her gorgeous, intelligent husband; he and her infant son, Kieran, were killed in a car accident that she survived. After she recovered from her physical wounds, she spent the next several years training in the Israeli special forces, becoming an expert on information gathering, motorcycle riding and surviving enemy torture. Unfortunately, the demanding work doesn’t heal her but only helps her ignore her true needs. On one of her first vacations, she decides to track down a film star named Troy Morel who looks just like her late husband; it’s part of her plan to say a ritual “goodbye” to Dylan. Will Dani be able to let go of her pain, or will seeing her husband’s suave doppelgänger only make it worse? Wolf’s novel is competently written, with a thrillerlike pace that makes it easy to read. It’s not concise, however, often using two sentences when one will do: “I drove my rented Land Rover into the quaint village of Saint-Sébastien just as the hot summer sun was setting behind me. It was lit by warm gold and orange light.” The novel skirts genres by integrating multiple, seemingly disparate threads; it’s as much a book about spying and deception as it is about emotional vulnerability and romance. This makes the story unusual, even if some scenarios stretch believability at times. Its genres are also frequently at odds with each other; as a romance, readers may want to see more of Dani’s emotional side, and as a thriller, they may want to see more of her take-no-prisoners approach. Wolf’s choice to integrate these elements creates a heroine who feels very divided, which makes for an inventive, if not entirely satisfying, book.

An occasionally implausible romantic spy thriller that delves into the complexity and power of grief.

Pub Date: April 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0991591800

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Annabelle

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2014

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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