THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL

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

ISBN: 0743464656

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1982

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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