BLACK PHOENIX

Bernau (Candle in the Wind, 1990; Promises to Keep, 1988) fails to make an unoriginal story worth telling as he surmises what would have happened if Adolf Hitler, instead of killing himself in 1945 in Berlin, had escaped across the globe with a plan to destroy the world. As WW II nears its end, Major Thomas Sheridan, a member of the US Army's Counter Intelligence Corps, has come to Berlin to investigate a threatening microbe called Phoenix. He is accompanied by Debra Marks, a sexy British naval officer. Their adventures begin at a destroyed Nazi facility where scientists developed the microbe and tested it on concentration camp prisoners; there the duo find the body (or so they think) of Joseph Goebbels, dead by suicide. Meanwhile, for reasons that remain obscure, the Nazis kidnap Angelique von Stahl, a renowned and skillful German pilot, and take her to a secluded mountain retreat where she meets Goebbels himself, who had faked his suicide. Sheridan and Marks follow the Nazis from Berlin to Buenos Aires, where a series of plot twists makes for a predictable ending in which our heroes discover that Hitler, who has also not committed suicide, is the mastermind of Phoenix. The characters, both fictional and historical, are one-dimensional; the writing is full of hackneyed phrases (``Stevenson's entire body filled with fear''; ``sheets of flames...roared into the night sky''). The work flirts briefly with the reader's imagination but generally falls flat.

Pub Date: April 14, 1994

ISBN: 0-446-51610-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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