This one’s all about the puzzle (character detail, though significant, seems familiar and obligatory)—and what a tricky,...

LIFE SENTENCE

A twisty, swiftly paced second legal thriller puts Ellis (Line of Vision, 2001, winner of an Edgar Allan Poe Award) into the ring with Scott Turow.

Jon Soliday, legal counsel to state Senator Grant Tully, discovers that Langdon Trotter, Tully’s opponent in the upcoming governor’s race, submitted an invalid petition. The irregularity will knock Trotter out of the contest—which, polls indicate, he leads. But Tully tells Soliday that going public with the information might backfire, making the underdog look petty. Instead, Tully suggests that Soliday inform lawyer Dale Garrison about the fake petition and let Garrison use the information to blackmail Trotter into throwing the race. Soliday hates the tactic, but not as much as he hates Trotter’s conservative politics. Just before he meets Garrison, however, it’s Soliday who receives an anonymous blackmail note. Hand over $250,000, it threatens, or “the secret that nobody knows” will go to “the senator.” Soliday sees Garrison, who likes Tully’s plan—but, after the meeting, someone murders Garrison. Since Soliday was alone in the lawyer’s office at the time, he’s suspect numero uno. His plot revving up, Ellis cuts back to 1979. Tully and Soliday, high-school buddies, party with drugs, booze, and a woman who comes on to Soliday. After she and Soliday have heavy sex, the woman is found dead. Did Soliday do it? Is this possible murder “the secret nobody knows”? Soliday claims he blacked out and doesn’t remember. Return to 2000, as emotionally coiled lawyer Bennett Carey fights for Soliday. Proceedings appear to move in Soliday’s favor, but then they turn in another direction. And another. Then another, as Ellis twists matters perhaps one time too many. Still, his case clearly shows that clues, like law and politics, can be turned to cast doubt or favor on anyone.

This one’s all about the puzzle (character detail, though significant, seems familiar and obligatory)—and what a tricky, surprising puzzle it is.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-14979-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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