A Kafkaesque political drama as allegory for America’s blind quest for absolute safety from international terrorism while...

ALLEGIANCE

In Roosevelt’s (In the Shadow of the Law, 2005) latest, the Axis attacks, and newly minted attorney Cash Harrison learns that too many powerful people think the " Constitution just a scrap of paper."

With a world war raging, many Americans believe it's justified to confine Japanese-Americans to detention camps: "The interests of the individual must be weighed against the needs of national security." Harrison is from an old Main Line Philadelphia family, sufficiently acquainted with the right people—people who might say about an artist that he "made Christ look too Jewish"—to be unknowingly classified 4-F and then offered a slot as a Supreme Court clerk. Harrison finds that it's the clerks' job to read the many petitions for certiorari and help the justices decide which cases to hear. And it’s not long before he believes his fellow clerk Gene Gressman is right in suspecting someone is "manipulating the court" via the clerks. Then Gressman’s found dead, his frail heart blamed, and Harrison is afraid he was killed because of the internment cases. He wants to find the truth and so asks Attorney General Francis Biddle, another Main Line denizen, for work at the Alien Enemies Control Unit. The plot is a Russian matryoshka, layered and deceptive. The decision to intern Japanese-Americans, "made in good faith for the safety of the nation," could be linked to profits made by "acquiring Japanese land." Historical characters such as Biddle, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and justices Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter arrive on the page arrogant, patronizing, and elitist, making for a depressing (and perhaps overly long) tale lightened only by Harrison finding honor, and love, in a San Francisco court hearing.

A Kafkaesque political drama as allegory for America’s blind quest for absolute safety from international terrorism while "the interests of capital" profit from paranoia.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941393-30-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Regan Arts

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This thriller is taut and fast-paced but lacks compelling protagonists.

THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS

Three siblings who have been out of touch for more than 20 years grapple with their unsettling childhoods, but when the youngest inherits the family home, all are drawn back together.

At the age of 25, Libby Jones learns she has inherited a large London house that was held in a trust left to her by her birthparents. When she visits the lawyer, she is shocked to find out that she was put up for adoption when she was 10 months old after her parents died in the house in an apparent suicide pact with an unidentified man and that she has an older brother and sister who were teenagers at the time of their parents' deaths and haven't been seen since. Meanwhile, in alternating narratives, we're introduced to Libby's sister, Lucy Lamb, who's on the verge of homelessness with her two children in the south of France, and her brother, Henry Lamb, who's attempting to recall the last few disturbing years with his parents during which they lost their wealth and were manipulated into letting friends move into their home. These friends included the controlling but charismatic David Thomsen, who moved his own wife and two children into the rooms upstairs. Henry also remembers his painful adolescent confusion as he became wildly infatuated with Phineas, David’s teenage son. Meanwhile, Libby connects with Miller Roe, the journalist who covered the story about her family, and the pair work together to find her brother and sister, determine what happened when she was an infant, and uncover who has recently been staying in the vacant house waiting for Libby to return. As Jewell (Watching You, 2018, etc.) moves back and forth from the past to the present, the narratives move swiftly toward convergence in her signature style, yet with the exception of Lucy’s story, little suspense is built up and the twists can’t quite make up for the lack of deep characters and emotionally weighty moments.

This thriller is taut and fast-paced but lacks compelling protagonists.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9010-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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