BLACK EAGLES

Collins (Maze, 1989, etc.) blends fact with fancy in a transnational melodrama, plausibly settling any lingering doubts as to the origin of crack, how Nicaraguan contras were financed, and the importance of Panama for laundered money as well as narcotics. Much of the tale is narrated (via tape) by the late John Featherly (Jack) Lind IV, an affluent and well-bred CIA officer. It's in 1988 Laos that Lind first confronts Kevin Grady, a dedicated DEA agent who can't accept the cloak-and-dagger crowd's winking at the drug-smuggling activities of its ad hoc allies. After their initial meeting, the instant antagonists go their separate ways, Grady to place an informant inside Colombia's Medell°n cartel and Lind to recruit promising young officer Manuel Antonio (``call me Tony'') Noriega as the CIA's man in Panama. Over the years, Noriega gains power and influence, becoming an invaluable source of intelligence. By the time the Reagan Administration decides to make Panama the keystone of its anti- Sandinista campaign, then, agency people like Lind have long turned a blind eye to Noriega's lucrative involvement with dope traffickers. Meanwhile, less concerned than Lind with the finer points of national security, Grady continues to stalk big-time drug dealers to the ends of the earth—including Noriega and the Cuban mercenaries the CIA has set to training contras with funds supplied by can-do Marine colonel Oliver North. (During all this, Medell°n's deep thinkers have developed crack to get the carriage-trade price of coke in US ghettos.) Lind warns Noriega of the DEA's approaching investigation; the strongman promptly orders the murder of an American undercover opponent of his regime; and, finally, Lind is forced at last to face the consequences of actions he's taken in the so-called national interest . . . just as Grady arrives with a warrant for his arrest. An engrossing, wide-angle yarn that could help confirm many conspiracy theorists' wilder suspicions and speculations.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 1995

ISBN: 0-525-93971-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1995

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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