THE FIRM

Terrifically exciting and likable first novel about tax lawyers and the Mafia, and a predictable success already sold to the movies, etc. Grisham does not cut as deep or furnish the occasional shining paragraph that Scott Turow does, but he writes a stripped, cliche-free page that grips and propels. Mitchell McDeere, married and tops in his class at Harvard, has great offers from several firms and is hungry for success. When Bendini, Lambert & Locke of Memphis snows him with money, a new BMW, a low-interest mortgage financed by the company, a huge clothing allowance and other incredible perks, (including early retirement as a multimillionaire), he seems to have landed in fairyland. Nothing is too much for the one new man a year the firm takes on. All that's required from him in a 90-hour week for several years and a fast hand at billing clients. Most of the firm's clients, seemingly all wealthy and ready to be billed unlimitedly, are content not to question the firm's methods at relieving their tax strain. For a while all looks legal. Then McDeere learns of the heavy mortality rate among the firm's lawyers: no one ever quits Bendini, Lambert & Locke. They die. It turns out that while the firm has many clients with clean hands, it nonetheless was set up by the Mafia as a pumphouse for siphoning drug dollars and other untaxed cash into phony corporations set up in the Cayman Islands. In fact, the firm's lavish Lear jet regularly hauls tons of US legal tender down to the islands with their hundreds of tax-haven banks and secret numbered accounts. Then the FBI chooses McDeere to be its chief informant and offers him its Witness Protection Program; otherwise, McDeere will be swept up in the forthcoming crackdown on the firm. Although the firm knows McDeere is a spy and sets him up for assassination, he is smarter than even the reader knows and fights back against both the firm and the FBI. Hallucinatory entertainment.

Pub Date: March 15, 1991

ISBN: 0440245923

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1991

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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