Don’t care for lawyers? Then you’ll love this tale of how a down-on-his-luck attorney’s slide to destruction is greased by his own legal counsel. Despite a fat trust fund and a trophy wife, San Francisco lawyer Jack Darwin is in trouble. His marriage is on the skids, since shy, bookish Darwin shares only one interest with vivacious Karla, and they hardly ever indulge that one anymore. Karla’s spending habits have made a big dent in Darwin’s trust fund, whose principal won’t get turned over to him for another ten years. And his first foray into criminal defense will come a cropper as soon as the judge hears Darwin’s hopelessly amateurish motion to dismiss. But as Darwin is sitting over still another bourbon bemoaning his fate, a fairy godmother appears in the form of David Avila, a fellow attorney who helps the other lawyer redraft his motion, points him toward some lucrative criminal defense work, and takes him under his wing. Darwin doesn’t know that his new friend, fresh from Karla’s bed, has already been plotting ways to relieve him of wife, home, and trust fund. So even as Darwin thinks he’s taking the first steps toward a new life with law- student Dolores Hernandez, he’s in fact following the footprints his fairy godmother has laid out for him—prints that lead to a messy divorce amid allegations of assault, a hopelessly compromised reputation, and, inevitably, the hot seat in a murder trial, with Avila on hand to run Darwin’s defense into the ground. Dold (Schedule Two, 1996, etc.) presents Darwin’s bumpy descent with easy empathy for this flawed, gentle man, but also, regrettably, with a complete lack of surprise. It’s fun for a while to watch diabolical Avila sink his client deeper and deeper into the muck, but even when the worm begins to turn, the revelations that will save Jack are as predictable as the villainy. Still, this is a sturdy nightmare for readers who love lawyers, and a satisfying revenge fantasy for readers who don’t.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19257-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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