PBS news anchor Lehrer, now a veteran novelist (Purple Dots, 1998, etc.), attempts a morality tale here. The result,...

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THE SPECIAL PRISONER

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 5, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-50371-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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