by John le Carré ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 1, 1982
Underneath the grand, stately textures and rich, ironic nuances (which make this new, non-Smiley le Carre novel superior reading), there's a surprisingly conventional thriller-romance here—something of a step backward, perhaps, from the originality and moral/psychological delicacy of the Smiley-Karla trilogy. A Smiley-ish Israeli spymaster, Schulmann, a.k.a. Kurtz, is determined to flush out the Palestinian mastermind behind terrorist bombings in Europe. (Shrewdly, if sentimentally, le Carre makes Kurtz an anti-Begin sort of Israeli, hoping to prevent military action by eliminating terrorism more economically.) His plan? The traditional one: to infiltrate the Palestinian network with an agent who'll lead the Israelis to mastermind Khalil. But the way in which Kurtz accomplishes this infiltration is oblique, circuitous, quintessential le Carre: Kurtz secretly abducts Khalil's younger terrorist-brother Salim; handsome, troubled Israeli agent Becker quasi-seduces a young, leftist English actress on vacation in Greece, Charmian, a.k.a. "Charlie the Red." And, once the reluctant Charlie agrees (for not-entirely-convincing reasons) to be an Israeli agent, evidence of an England/Greece love-affair between Salim and Charlie is elaborately, painstakingly fabricated—love-letters, hotel-rooms, etc.—while Charlie gets deeply into her political, passionate role by playing out the love-story, with Becker (whom she does truly love, though he remains sexually aloof) as Salim. Thus, when Salim dies in an Israeli-staged car-crash, his comrades find the planted evidence and naturally seek out his grieving girlfriend, who may Know Too Much: with such credentials Charlie will become an almost-trusted terror recruit (spending devastating time in a Lebanon refugee camp). . . and will eventually be ready to get a bomb-assignment from Khalil in Europe, setting him up for Israel's assassins. Unfortunately, Charlie herself, for all the elegant prose and smart dialogue that le Carre lavishes on her, is never quite believable in her wavering political loyalties, her role-playing confusions; throughout, in fact, le Carre's narrative craft occasionally seems hamstrung by his determination to be fully fair to both sides of the Mideast terror. And the finale, with its strong-but-ordinary showdown and patly romantic fadeout, is faintly disappointing. Still, though a bit tenuous (and even, in the Charlie/Becker playlets, a trifle dull) by le Carre standards, this is clearly, compellingly, the work of one of today's few great storytellers—from its spacious yet tugging narration (a modern equivalent of Dickens) to its edge-of-your-seat interrogations and confrontations. So Smiley followers may be in for a slight let-down, but they—and others—will want to read every word nonetheless.
Pub Date: March 1, 1982
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1982
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).
A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Pub Date: June 16, 2020
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Kathy Reichs ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2020
Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.
Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.
A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.
Pub Date: March 17, 2020
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020
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