THE SPECIAL PRISONER by Jim Lehrer

THE SPECIAL PRISONER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A near-miss about man's inhumanity to man—in war and then in peace.

He's become the much respected, almost revered, now retired Bishop Quincy Watson of Boston, but 50 years ago he flew a B29 that rained firebombs on Tokyo until the Japanese shot him down. Though he survived the crash, Quincy spent much of the time that followed wishing he hadn't. Fliers, especially bomber pilots, were viewed with maximum hostility by their captors. Quincy found himself labeled a 'special prisoner,' a category the Japanese reserved for war criminals. Degraded, tortured, threatened daily with death and worse, he was one of a minuscule number of special prisoners who managed to live through the experience. At the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, on an otherwise ordinary day, his glance happens to connect with someone else's. Seconds later, that man is lost in the airport crowd, but Quincy is certain he's recognized the eyes ('two dark brown lasers') belonging to his former chief tormentor, Japanese Lieutenant Tashimoto. Quincy goes on a hunt, traces his prey to a hotel in San Diego, and confronts the man in his room. Tashimoto denies everything he's accused of, insists the two have never met and that during the war the US, not Japan, behaved like an outlaw nation. Quincy calls him a liar on all counts. Hate regenerated is as implacable as ever. It explodes into sudden violence, the long-term ramifications of which are tragic and embittering.

PBS news anchor Lehrer, now a veteran novelist (Purple Dots, 1998, etc.), attempts a morality tale here. The result, unfortunately, is frustratingly elusive. The POW scenes are riveting, but the plotting, particularly the denouement, seems wrenched to fit a fixed idea, making the tale hard to believe and the seeming morality hard to track.

Pub Date: May 5th, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50371-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2000




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