A broad, striking attempt to interweave money and politics.

POINTS ON A LINE

Forty years of political and financial suspicion and frustration kneaded into a semifictional account of government machinations, power brokering, partisan jousting and, always in the foreground, a complex economic debate.

Divided into four parts—beginning with the ominous “Seeds of the Beast” and ending with a portentous reference to “Voices of Babel”—Gentsch’s debut is told largely from Jude Anders’ perspective. First, he’s a civically engaged college student organizing Vietnam War protests, then an economic analyst at the IMF and the Federal Reserve, and eventually, he’s an advisor in the fictional present-day American president’s inner circle. In a socially and politically liberal voice, the book directly adheres to documented history through the Clinton presidency, then refers nondescriptly to a Republican in the White House for eight years, and finally presents a thinly fictionalized version of the last four years under a Democratic president named Mitchell Taylor, a single-term Native American senator from Colorado. As bright and capable as Jude appears to be, his career trajectory has a manufactured hue to it; while avoiding the draft in seminary school in Toronto, he meets Anton Tomasin, an articulate if somewhat cagey political science major around whom Jude is instinctively cautious because Anton has been raised by his adoptive parents in material comfort with privileged access to global movers and shakers. In the novel, a powerful, conspiratorial network influences men, markets and governments, all the while shadowing Jude’s progress. This conglomerate surreptitiously lurks behind the American curtain; along with the masses of uninformed U.S. citizenry and adherents to the Chicago School of Economics, they form a body of antagonists. In flashbacks and recollections, readers relive Jude’s reactions to and involvement in a string of significant historical events, including the violence at Kent State in 1970, the oil crisis of ’73, U.S. and international interference in Central and South American regimes, the attacks and aftermath of 9/11, and the contemporary debt crisis in Greece. Despite its lumbering pace, the simple, colloquial prose progresses with easy-to-swallow biographical turns—cute college girls; reluctant, ultimately joyful fatherhood; bitter divorce. The constant color of economic crisis and espionage, however, sometimes dizzily careens toward implausibility. Jude’s populism and essentially Keynesian philosophy would have been better served had Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman followers in the novel had an equal champion; instead, opposing forces tend to be uninformed, fatalistic or sinister. For the most part, though, Gentsch maintains an admirably nonpartisan course to inform and awaken readers to the significance of economic ideas and policies.

A broad, striking attempt to interweave money and politics.

Pub Date: May 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475921793

Page Count: 516

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

DREAM TOWN

An old-fashioned gumshoe yarn about Hollywood dreams and dead bodies.

Private investigator Aloysius Archer celebrates New Year’s Eve 1952 in LA with his gorgeous lady friend and aspiring actress Liberty Callahan. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb shows up and offers to hire him because “someone might be trying to kill me.” “I’m fifty a day plus expenses,” he replies, but money’s no obstacle. Later, he sneaks into Lamb’s house and stumbles upon a body, then gets knocked out by an unseen assailant. Archer takes plenty of physical abuse in the story, but at least he doesn’t get a bullet between the eyes like the guy he trips over. A 30-year-old World War II combat veteran, Archer is a righteous and brave hero. Luck and grit keep him alive in both Vegas and the City of Angels, which is rife with gangsters and crooked cops. Not rich at all, his one luxury is the blood-red 1939 Delahaye he likes to drive with the top down. He’d bought it with his gambling winnings in Reno, and only a bullet hole in the windscreen post mars its perfection. Liberty loves Archer, but will she put up with the daily danger of losing him? Why doesn’t he get a safe job, maybe playing one of LA’s finest on the hit TV show Dragnet? Instead, he’s a tough and principled idealist who wants to make the world a better place. Either that or he’s simply a “pavement-pounding PI on a slow dance to maybe nowhere.” And if some goon doesn’t do him in sooner, his Lucky Strikes will probably do him in later. Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the not-so-distant era when everybody smoked, Joe McCarthy hunted commies, and Marilyn Monroe stirred men’s loins. The 1950s weren’t the fabled good old days, but they’re fodder for gritty crime stories of high ideals and lowlifes, of longing and disappointment, and all the trouble a PI can handle.

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1977-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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