A rousing and provocative political thriller, though the labyrinthine plot can make for an arduous read.

DARK NETWORK

AN IMOGEN TRAGER NOVEL

The FBI races to uncover a complex conspiracy to hijack a presidential election.

McCrone’s (Faithless Elector, 2016) second installment in the Imogen Trager series picks up where its predecessor left off: a plot to steal the presidency results in the murders of seven electors, in retribution for their refusal to change their votes, and three faithless electors, who were killed in order to silence them. After a chaotic shootout, the assistant director of the FBI languishes in a medically induced coma; professor Duncan Calder (Trager’s love interest) is badly wounded; and Thomas Kurtz, an FBI agent complicit in the conspiracy, is dead. There is powerful evidence of electoral fraud in Illinois, and it’s likely that when Congress convenes, it will deem the votes of the faithless electors illegitimate. In that case, in accordance with the 12th Amendment, a vote by the House of Representatives will select a new president and one by the Senate, a new vice president, the two possibly from different parties. Both presidential candidates—Republican James Christopher and Democrat Diane Redmond—suggest the other is culpable of fraud, and the public grows violently disillusioned by an increasingly shambolic pantomime of the democratic process. McCrone skillfully depicts a country pushed to the brink: “In this atmosphere, it was growing harder to know what was going on at all, nor what information to trust. The Constitution was straining at the seams.” Trager helps the FBI find evidence of two conspiratorial cells—one operating within the bureau and one outside of it. The acting executive assistant director of the FBI, Don Weir, worries that the agency continues to be infiltrated by moles. The author yet again deftly delivers a combination of stirring action and remarkably intricate plot entanglements. And this is a timely and intelligent commentary on the current state of electoral politics in America—a dour sense of voter disenfranchisement in response to dizzyingly ubiquitous corruption. But the plot is sometimes torpidly complex, and despite dutiful synopses of prior events regularly issued, this will be a difficult book to follow for those who haven’t read the first.

A rousing and provocative political thriller, though the labyrinthine plot can make for an arduous read.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-79784-6

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Faithless Elector

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2017

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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