The result is a political cocktail almost as fizzy and inventive as The Onion or The Wall Street Journal in which every...

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UNDER THE EYE OF GOD

Isaac Sidel, commissioner of police turned New York City mayor, adds a new title to his résumé: vice president-elect of the United States.

Added to the Democratic ticket in 1988 to juice the appeal of J. Michael Storm, a baseball czar with feet of clay (Citizen Sidel, 1999), Isaac swiftly becomes the main story. Crowds and Republicans adore him, ignoring the presidential candidate who took 47 states. Even J. Michael’s 12-year-old daughter, Marianna, takes up a staunch position at “Uncle Isaac’s” side, prompting fearful echoes of Lolita. Amid all the hoopla, however, deeper currents swirl. A Korean War vet aiming at Isaac during a trip to San Antonio shoots his Secret Service bodyguard instead. Isaac finds David Pearl, the banker who was the longtime silent partner to Isaac’s glover father, holed up in Manhattan’s Ansonia Hotel brewing heaven knows what dastardly schemes. Isaac falls hard for David’s inamorata, Inez, nee Trudy Winckleman, but knows their relationship can’t possibly end well. Instead of readying himself for the vice presidency, the Big Man prefers to play out his last days as the mayoral savior of the five boroughs. All around him, meanwhile, career politicians, campaign consultants, political strategists, psychiatrists and astrologers do what they do best: discern conspiracies, take fright and counter them with their own megalomaniac fantasies. All of this uproar in the national hall of mirrors, in which friends are really enemies and enemies are really nuts, perfectly suits Charyn’s tropism for antic mythologizing. The new threats arriving on every page are often extended, inflated and dispatched in time for the next paragraph break.

The result is a political cocktail almost as fizzy and inventive as The Onion or The Wall Street Journal in which every development is dark, urgent and apocalyptic, and none of it matters a bit.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4532-7099-8

Page Count: 222

Publisher: MysteriousPress.com

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE

Murder and mayhem plague a film set on a secluded island off the coast of Delaware in Little’s (Dear Daughter, 2015, etc.) sophomore thriller.

When film editor Marissa Dahl takes a job on a new film directed by the talented but temperamental Tony Rees, she’s not given a script and must sign a mile-long nondisclosure agreement. It’s not ideal, but she needs the work. Escorted by an attractive ex–Navy SEAL named Isaiah, Marissa arrives on Kickout Island to find a bustling set, headquartered at a beautiful hotel, that is cloaked in secrecy and beset with dysfunction. Once Marissa gets down to work, she realizes that picking up the slack from the previous editor, who was fired for unknown reasons, won’t be smooth sailing and that the movie is based on the real-life unsolved murder of aspiring actress Caitlyn Kelly 25 years ago on that very island. Most folks assume that an eccentric ferry captain named Billy Lyle, a friend of Caitlyn’s, was the killer, but there was never enough evidence to convict. A few people, however, think he may be innocent. Marissa sets out to discover what really happened to Caitlyn with the help of Isaiah and two intrepid, tech-savvy 13-year-olds—Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, whose parents work for the hotel. What she finds is a dead body and a whole lot of trouble. Readers fascinated with the behind-the-scenes machinations of a movie set will be enthralled, plus there’s a frisson of romantic tension between Isaiah and Marissa, and the island setting lends some spooky atmosphere. Snippets from Grace and Suzy’s true-crime podcast, Dead Ringer, are also sprinkled throughout. Though a killer on the loose adds a fair bit of urgency in the second half, the main focus is on Little’s singular narrator. Marissa relates to the world primarily through film and considers herself anything but typical: “It’s possible I’ve spent so much time watching movies that the language of film has infiltrated some primal, necessary part of my brain. I catch myself processing my own emotions in scenes, in shots, in dialogue.”

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-670-01639-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An enjoyable read. Berry’s fans won’t be disappointed.

THE WARSAW PROTOCOL

Holy relics, a salt mine, and treachery feature in this 15th entry in the author’s Cotton Malone series (The Malta Exchange, 2019, etc.).

Former lawyer and American intelligence officer Cotton Malone is now a bookseller who goes to Bruges, Belgium, for an antiquarian book fair. He’s hired by a former boss to steal the Holy Lance, one of the seven “weapons of Christ,” or Arma Christi. That is the price of admission to a secret auction, in which various countries will bid on compromising information about Poland’s president, Janusz Czajkowski. The point? Czajkowski is an honorable man who will not allow the U.S. to build a missile system on Polish soil, and the EU– and NATO-hating U.S. President Fox is one of several people who want the Polish leader out of the way at all costs. “If I wanted a conscience, I’d buy one,” Fox says. Readers will have to pay close attention to suss out the meaning of Czajkowski’s Warsaw Protocol because the author hardly hammers it home. But the story is fun regardless, especially with characters like the smart and resourceful Malone and the Polish foreign intelligence officer Sonia Draga, “a fortress, often scaled and assaulted, but never conquered.” The complex plot leads to a magnificent Polish salt mine (a real place) that’s hundreds of meters deep with nine layers, has hundreds of miles of tunnels, brine lakes people can’t sink in, and lots of tourists. Berry builds suspense nicely, allowing readers to anticipate the violence that eventually comes. To a great extent, the novel is a richly detailed homage to Poland, its culture, and its ability to survive so many invasions over the centuries. The connection between Arma Christi and an unwanted American missile system feels a wee bit iffy, but at least the latter won’t be called the Holy Lance.

An enjoyable read. Berry’s fans won’t be disappointed.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-14030-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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