Compared with this, Knox’s earlier fictional premises (a mortal’s love affair with an angel, for example) seem like...


If Anne Rice, Patrick White, and David Lynch had gotten together (unlikely, but think of the possibilities), they might have had a few drinks and concocted something like this crazily overstuffed fourth novel from the New Zealand author (Billie’s Kiss, 2002, etc.).

Call it magical realism noir. For mysteries begin proliferating when Australian policeman Brian “Bad” Phelan, recovering on vacation near the French-Italian border from injuries sustained while defusing a bomb, helps retrieve a drowned woman’s body from a sea cave—and notices her identical resemblance to a woman he’d met years before, in disturbingly similar circumstances. Things go quickly from bad to worse. The embattled cop seeks information about the dead woman, Martine Dardo, possibly the daughter of Blessed Mother Martine Raimondi, a heroine of WWII’s Italian partisans murdered by the Nazis. Even more confusing appearances (magnified by Knox’s turgid conflations of past with present) are made by Father Daniel Octave, who’s investigating Raimondi’s qualifications for sainthood; scholar Eve Moskelutz (whose specialty is the libidinous aristocrat Marquis de Chambord, author of the popular romance Daylight); the widow of noted painter Jean Ares; Eve’s twin sister Dawn, a frequently unclad seductress who enjoys biting other people’s tongues; the decapitated body of a former beneficiary of one of Mother Martine’s “miracles”; and a soulful vampire named Lou Ila, who knows the secrets most of these folks and their acquaintances and lovers have been concealing for years (if not centuries). This bizarre narrative impasto, at times as entertaining as it is certifiably insane, eventually does reach a resolution of sorts, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense—not that the battle-fatigued reader really expects it to.

Compared with this, Knox’s earlier fictional premises (a mortal’s love affair with an angel, for example) seem like kitchen-sink realism. What’s next? Waltzing Matilda as a punk priestess of Ishtar?

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-345-45795-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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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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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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