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THE DATE FARM

A swiftly paced thriller with impeccable heroes.

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In this fourth installment of a series, Mossad agents face off against Islamic terrorists initiating attacks in the United States.

A group of armed men opens fire at a crowd in a Beverly Hills shopping mall. After the assailants commit suicide with shouts of “Allahu Akhbar,” the FBI calls Uri Levin and Lara Edmond. The married couple are Mossad agents, though Lara is still officially a fed as well. They cut short their vacation at Lara’s family farm in Ohio and head to Los Angeles, but the evidence they gather there unfortunately sparks no leads. Weeks later, there’s a different style of attack in New York. Unknown men have incited a traffic jam and subsequently taken over two buildings, the Federal Reserve and Chase Manhattan Bank. At the same time, someone has evidently disabled communications networks and satellite transmissions. Suspecting the attackers, like in the California shooting, are Middle Eastern, the feds once again bring in Uri and Lara. Readers are aware that Sheikh Zainal Abidin is heading the strike against America. U.S. agents believe the enemy’s objective is gold, rumored to be at the Federal Reserve but actually at Chase Manhattan Bank. But Abidin has other agendas in the works. He wants revenge against Uri and Lara, who previously foiled a plan that he was a part of years ago. But his ultimate goal, known only to a few, is stealing a rare material stored in one of the two buildings. In this thriller, Winnick (Devil in False Colors, 2016, etc.) wastes little time in showcasing the villains as well as the bulk of their simple but effective plan. For example, Abidin’s “electronics team” in Kazerun, Iran, is responsible for America’s communications shutdown while the Beverly Hills attack was really a setup for the more substantial one in Manhattan. This certainly boosts suspense, as Abidin has his eyes set on the Mossad heroes well before they identify him as a culprit. But too many characters (and narrative details) reiterate already clarified elements of the baddies’ scheme, including someone hacking communications and gold as a potential target. Luckily, this hardly slows down the story, which moves at a steady clip. The latter half entails a journey from North to South America and, later, Iran, where Uri and Lara go undercover in enemy territory. The author aptly balances the recurring protagonists’ romantic and professional lives. There’s no question the two are in love, but in the field, they’re both tenacious agents even if they aren’t working side by side. The bad guys are painted in broader colors, but they’re still an engrossing bunch, and their propensity for martyrdom makes them frightening. In keeping with the action, Winnick’s descriptions are thorough while continually propelling the narrative: “The dead and wounded had been tended to, a task that took over an hour, before any of the Federal officers realized the contents of the wooden crates had not been identified.” Winnick also adds surprises, from the (eventual) reveal of the unknown material to one character’s betrayal.

A swiftly paced thriller with impeccable heroes.

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-79093-946-6

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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