A tightly written treat for spy-novel fans.

THE BLACK FREIGHTER

A CARIBBEAN SPY THRILLER

In Baker’s (Desert Sanctuary, 2019, etc.) thriller, a spy attempts to thwart a coup in a Caribbean nation.

Posing as a journalist, American secret agent Robert Wilson embarks on an assignment in Grenada. His mission, which he has only one week to accomplish, is to stop a plot to upend the national election and overthrow the government. Wilson doesn’t know who’s behind it, nor how or exactly when it’s supposed to happen. Baker masterfully offers readers a number of possible villains as the twisty plot cast suspicion upon one character after another. High on the list of culprits are the governments of China and Russia, which have separately posted people on the island for reasons that aren’t immediately clear. Then operatives from Venezuela and Cuba get into the mix, and Wilson meets a Venezuelan woman named Tori Vargas. She soon cozies up to him, and the spy can’t decide if she’s really an unwilling pawn of the Venezuelan government, as she claims. Baker deftly increases the time pressure by making each chapter title a consecutive day of the week. Throughout the book, Wilson is fixated on a black freighter, the Shanghai Maiden, moored just a half-mile offshore, which has suspicious-looking containers on its deck. The ship effectively becomes a character all its own, taunting the protagonist to uncover what, if anything, it has to do with the revolutionary plot. Early chapters unwind slowly as Wilson bolsters his cover as a journalist, but from there, the pacing escalates in a breathless manner. Also, everything happens in real time, and only on the island, which makes the suspenseful plot easy to follow. Baker’s fluid, cinematic prose style makes reading the novel feel like watching an entertaining movie—and, indeed, the action seems tailor-made for the big screen.

A tightly written treat for spy-novel fans.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-949336-14-6

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Other Voices Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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