A lively political thriller.

An atmosphere of distrust and subterfuge pervaded the Colonies on the eve of war.

In brisk, tense chapters, Meltzer (The Escape Artist, 2018, etc.) and documentary TV producer Mensch relate a tale of spies and treason, conspiracy and counterintelligence at the start of the colonists’ war against Britain. Using present tense, the authors create a sense of immediacy and peril: Patriots are being hastily formed into a ragtag, rowdy army; the British, with its incomparable navy, are mounting a well-orchestrated campaign, sending hundreds of ships to assail Manhattan; and the clock, as clocks do in such thrillers, is ticking. Central to the convoluted plot is the fate of George Washington, portrayed by the authors as a paragon of leadership and perfection: “perfect poise, perfect manners, perfect horsemanship, perfect appearance.” He faces a population of “divided loyalties and shifting allegiances…ripe for treachery, spying, and double-crossing.” Farmers and townsfolk are lured into fighting for the king and conveying secret information. New York Gov. William Tryon and the city’s mayor, David Mathews, are conspirators, Tryon masterminding treachery from aboard a British ship docked in New York’s harbor. Shocked by rumors, Washington decides to assemble an elite band of soldiers enjoined to protect him. Their nickname was the Life Guards. In addition, he convenes “a dedicated team who can uncover the enemies’ secret activities,” learn their plans, and thwart them. The secret Committee of Intestine Enemies, the authors assert, will become, two centuries later, the CIA: “the domain of dedicated agencies with well-trained experts and sophisticated technologies.” As rudimentary as it was, however, Washington’s clandestine committee ferreted out important information: Among turncoats were members of Washington’s Life Guards and, astonishingly, his housekeeper. The authors acknowledge that some elements of the plot remain mysterious: Washington’s housekeeper, for example, left his employ suddenly, but no records point to her involvement. Nevertheless, the conspiracy is foiled, and in July 1776, Washington’s public reading of the Declaration of Independence finally energizes his soldiers.

A lively political thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-13033-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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