An uneven treatment of an intriguing subject.




A dramatic story about an FBI investigation involving a notorious and brilliant scam artist.

During his tenure at the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover was never big on undercover work, so the agency avoided such operations. However, in the late 1970s, an opportunity arose to take on a significant case and to break new ground by using a hidden wire. Agent Jack Brennan, whose grandfather and father both worked for the FBI, had a “sunny, freewheeling disposition.” His partner, James Wedick Jr., was “pure kinetic energy, a vivacious, speed-talking New Yorker.” Both were smart and ambitious. In 1977, at the Thunderbird Motel outside Minneapolis, they met Phil Kitzer for the first time thanks to an inside source. For 15 years, shrewd, confident Kitzer had been swindling banks, “real estate developers, entrepreneurs and everyday investors out of countless millions of dollars.” How he did it and how he was finally caught by Brennan and Wedick is the subject of journalist Howard’s (Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic, 2010) true-crime adventure. The agents had to earn Kitzer’s trust in order for the sting to work. Gradually, they did, and he took them under his wing. Little by little, over the next two years, he involved them in his numerous scams. The agents were able to create a world surrounding Kitzer’s world, and he didn’t see it. Howard follows the agents as they zigzag around the world observing Kitzer in action. Besides being constantly in fear and on edge, they also had to deal with the FBI’s burdensome bureaucracy, skeptical superiors, and battles to get the financing they needed. An elaborate caper-and-sting story like this, filled with deception, chicanery, and subterfuge, should be a page-turning thrill. Unfortunately, Howard’s prose is lackluster and sometimes tepid, resulting in a book that has Ocean’s Eleven written all over it but comes out Dragnet lite.

An uneven treatment of an intriguing subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-90742-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2017

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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