CITY OF GOLD

Abandoning present-day intrigues (MAMista, Spy Sinker, etc.), Deighton journeys back to WW II (SS-GB and XPD)—and a terrific return it is: a rich drama of heroes and villains awaiting German General Erwin Rommel's attack on Cairo—the ``city of gold.'' The plots here are many, but central among them is the attempt by Special Investigation Branch Major Bert Cutler to unmask the spy who's been leaking British secrets to Rommel. The kicker is that Cutler isn't Cutler; he's really Jimmy Ross, a British corporal who was on his way to Cairo to be court-martialed for killing an officer when his escort, Cutler, keeled over from a heart attack. Quick-thinking Ross switched IDs with Cutler and now finds himself in Cairo with an office, full staff, and carte blanche to turn the city upside down in pursuit of the spy—that is, if he doesn't betray himself first to any of the marvelously realized characters who crowd the pages here, from his leathery assistant to a manipulative Jewish nationalist, a White Russian prince, two young and beautiful Englishwomen, an upper-class British deserter turned grand thief, a too-caricatured American reporter (all tough pose and cocky action), and King Farouk himself—fat, decadent, imperious. It's the deserter who—by committing a murder that Ross must investigate—turns out to be Ross's main foil; and it's he who pulls the narrative—the first half of which springs forward mostly on perfectly pitched dialogue—into the desert and shattering action as Rommel attacks an armored caravan carrying Ross and several others, precipitating a crisis that movingly strips these men, good and evil, down to their bare selves. At one point, Ross is likened to Bogart—appropriate in a novel so reminiscent in spirit to Casablanca. And if this is the same old story, a song of love and glory, at least it's told here with consummate skill. Play it again, Len.

Pub Date: July 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-017937-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more