Deighton's longest, most complex and passionate novel in years: an epic tale, set in a South American jungle, of good men and women crushed beneath the heel of Realpolitik. The world-weary pessimism that seeped into Spy Sinker (1990) stains these pages black; even Deighton's customary whimsy has withered into a pervasive bitter irony. Yet there's valor in his new, brilliantly realized huge cast of characters, beginning with two men who travel for different reasons to Spanish Guiana: Australian M.D. Ralph Lucas, sent by a relief group to research medical conditions in the area controlled by the MAMista Marxist guerrilla movement; and Angel Paz, an idealistic young ``Yanqui'' Marxist determined to fight for revolution. After meeting under the brutal gaze of the country's neofascist rulers, the pair— accompanied by Inez, a beautiful female revolutionary—endure a harrowing air ride to the south, where they link up with General Ram¢n, leader of the MAMista. There, disillusionment sets in as Lucas is shocked at the rampant disease and malnutrition, and Paz finds himself compared unfavorably by Ram¢n to the wise, if capitalist, Lucas. A guerrilla raid on an American outpost jacks up the emotional tension: Inez, to her shame, kills in cold blood; Paz causes an innocent's death; a CIA man is captured—and proves the key for future horrors. Meanwhile, in mesmerizing scenes set—in contrast to the miasmic jungle—in elegant D.C. power venues, including the White House, the President and his chief advisor hammer out a shady deal with Ram¢n to permit US exploitation of a huge oil find in guerrilla territory. To consecrate the deal, Ram¢n sends Lucas and comrades to escort the CIA man north on a jungle trek that explodes in heroism, betrayal, absurdity, and death. The spirits of Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad hover over this stately, outstanding mix of tragedy and black farce that builds slowly—but inexorably—to its piercing conclusion.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-017936-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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