Second thuggishly pulp-styled novel by Ridley, whose Stray Dogs (1997) was filmed as the Oliver Stone dud U Turn. As James M. Cain found and Jim Thompson later confirmed, the female is the deadlier of the species. Jeffty Kittridge, a scriptwriter who has written only one unsubmitted script (A Kick to the Heart), which the various lowlifes here read and pronounce —beautiful,— is a con man who adapts short-change ruses out of Thompson’s The Grifters until he runs into the big con that can change his life (a turn also out of The Grifters). In the novel’s first sentence, two of Jeffty’s fingers are broken to spur him to round up the fifteen grand he owes bookie Dumas. Jeffty is an alky who hangs out with other heavy boozers at the Regent bar, but his boozing’s unconvincingly detailed and the bar is like a badly lighted movie set. Jeffty notices that Mona, a street beggar forever asking for change, is a ringer for Pier Angeli, once the love of James Dean, and he remembers that big producer Moe Steinberg still carries the torch for the late Pier. If he can clean up Mona and wave her in front of Moe, chances are he can get the bolus he owes Dumas out of Moe and save more fingers from getting broken. So he takes in Mona, pulls some low scams to get her done over by beauticians in the manner of Pier, and begins planting her in a bar Moe frequents. At last Moe shows up and bites on the bait. Meanwhile, vice cop Duntphy (a name hard even to think) locks up Jeffty to get him to put the skids to Dumas. The climax is a cat’s-cradle of cons and deceptions. Good Cain novels are pleasures to reread, their turnings ever fresh. Each page here, though, has inky fingerprints smudging the original. May Ridley look into his soul next time instead of his bookcase. (First printing of 50,000)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-40142-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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