A severed human arm leads to an unholy web of spying, murder, and betrayal in war-torn London: a first novel from BBC-TV filmmaker Lawton. Sgt. Frederick Troy, treated with an uneasy combination of respect and suspicion because of his moneyed, foreign-born family, soon identifies the arm (some smart detective work here) as belonging to the late Bertoldt Brand, a specialist in lightweight alloys and rocketry who's evidently the latest to follow his project team— engineer Gregor von Ranke and professor-turned-dockworker Peter Wolinski—into the peace that passeth understanding. Conservative princess Lady Diana Brack, seen leaving Wolinski's flat, leads Troy to a likely suspect: OSS Major Jimmy Wayne, who obligingly implicates himself more deeply when a copper who wedges behind his car in a London pea-souper is found dead. But the trail stops there. According to the American high command, Wayne was in a meeting with Ike and Patton at the time of this last murder, and some other dude did it. So Troy, giving his days to interrogating Brack and his nights to slipping between the insistent sheets of Sgt. Larissa Tosca, his inside contact among the Americans, goes after Wayne on his own. The result, as Troy totes it up toward the end of this beautifully paced debut: He gradually gets a sense of just what Wayne's mission in Britain is, and why his superiors would be so willing to cover for him; he gets shot twice, stabbed four times, bombed twice, and beaten up more times than he can count; and in an overextended but crucial epilogue four years later, he finds that the plots he thought he'd laid to rest were more twisted than he'd ever imagined. Gorky Park in the London Blitz. Newcomer Lawton has an urban documentarist's eye and ear for his jangled world—London has seldom seemed quite so foreign—and a nasty sense of how little slips can indeed sink ships.

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-85767-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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