A quirky heist tale with too much emphasis on the theft, leaving its more vibrant features behind.



A host of eccentric criminals and an intrepid investigator get lost in the management of the U.S. Postal Service in this novel.

In a promisingly outlandish beginning, Quinlan (Collected Plays of Francis Quinlin, 2016) introduces readers to a man named The Professor, the wild resident of an asylum who channels a modern god named enoon, “deity, third rank, journalist, Cosmic News Bureau, New England Department.” It is actually enoon who narrates the story of POF and POOF, words soon revealed to be competing acronyms for an experiment in new amenities at the Postal Service. Almost five years after the implementation of POOF, $17.5 million of foreign currency disappears from a post office, throwing the postmaster, the U.S. president, numerous reporters, a group of bizarre conspirators, and even a curious old landlady on a collision course with one another and the corrupt, tangled bureaucracy that made the crime possible. At the center of all of this mess is Postal Inspector Emmett Keene, a solid investigator running only a few steps behind the culprits but always a little too late to stop their next crime or keep the chaos from evolving into a potential money-laundering scandal for the government. This is mostly thanks to a small, secret society that is manipulating the press to keep Keene off the track, unwittingly giving one of its own the perfect opportunity for a double-cross. While early chapters feature a blend of inspired lunacy with political critique reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut or Tom Robbins, Quinlan’s novel buries its most charming features with a more conventional procedural. Too much time with the two-dimensional Keene and an overwhelming number of point-of-view characters produce this effect, but nonetheless there are bright, quirky moments that cannot help but grab the spotlight. An incredibly hot-tempered postal worker, villains who develop their own court system for making decisions, and a man with multiple personalities are just some of the inventive elements that should dominate this story but that unfortunately spend too much time in the shadows.

A quirky heist tale with too much emphasis on the theft, leaving its more vibrant features behind.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5301-5909-3

Page Count: 428

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2018

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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