OUR GAME

The great subject that's fascinated le Carre (The Night Manager, 1993, etc.) throughout his career — what happens to the masters of tradecraft in a world that doesn't match their trade — comes in for unsettlingly timely treatment in this latest tale of spies grown too old and knowing. Back in the sorely missed old world order, Larry Pettifer was a British double agent inside the KGB who shuttled back and forth between his two sets of masters with nary a care. Now, just as he's about to start the job his old school-friend Timothy Cranmer has found him at the University of Bath, he's gone missing, together with Cranmer's decorative lover Emma Manzini. A pair of hectoring police officers, who inevitably turn out to be Special Branch, are convinced that Cranmer knows what happened to his old colleague, and Cranmer is doubly frantic: first to hide any links between his mistress and her current lover, then to hide the fact that he may have killed Pettifer himself at their last momentous meeting. May have? It's typical of Cranmer, the good Englishman who's as dispassionate a professional as George Smiley, that he can't be sure whether or not he really killed his opposite number, a Byronic moralist full of passionate convictions about every battle he's ever fought. The news that Pettifer's old KGB controller Konstantin Checheyev has disappeared at the same time with a self-administered $37 million retirement fund allows Cranmer to identify Pettifer's latest cause — the uprising in Checheyev's native Chechen republic — but doesn't tell him what to do about it: He can only call on the tricks of his tradecraft one last time in a sad, mad chase over Europe and Russia to find Pettifer, without any idea what he can say if he's lucky enough to find him still alive. The debate between noncommittal Cranmer and heroically partisan Pettifer, which is at the heart of the novel, is never satisfyingly dramatized — lots of peevish flashbacks have to do the job of pricking Cranmer's conscience — but le Carre has never written more subtly or tellingly of the fate of agents doomed by their own success.

Pub Date: March 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-44189-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1995

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

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

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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