THE BRINK

PRESIDENT REAGAN AND THE NUCLEAR WAR SCARE OF 1983

An informative and often enthralling book, but it is tough sledding. Readers must pay strict attention lest they get lost in...

An account of the tense relations between the United States and the Soviet Union during Ronald Reagan’s first presidential term.

On Nov. 7, 1983, NATO commenced a five-day military exercise called Able Archer 83. In simulating a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe and a NATO nuclear response, Able Archer scared the Soviet Union into believing that an actual U.S.–led attack was imminent. Thus the Russians readied their nuclear forces and placed military units in Eastern Europe on alert, bringing the two superpowers to the edge of war. Ambinder (co-author: Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, 2013), a former White House correspondent and TV producer, chronicles the road to this near catastrophe. In relating incidents such as Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, the Soviet Union’s shooting down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, and the installation of Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, the author skillfully places the Able Archer exercise within the context of the fraught Cold War atmosphere of the early 1980s. He also persuasively argues that a key to the easing of this tension was Reagan’s belated understanding that Russian distrust was rooted in the fact that, as the president noted in his diary, “many people at the top of the Soviet hierarchy were genuinely afraid of America and Americans.” The book features interviews with government officials and spies who were on the scene, and Ambinder writes in the appealing style of Tom Clancy. Yet he compromises the narrative with short chapters that bounce from place to place and a frustrating tendency to omit dates. Moreover, the author employs an extensive cast of characters and a plethora of acronyms (although he does provide lists for both). The fulcrum of the book—the Able Archer exercise and the Soviet reaction to it—is somewhat anticlimactic.

An informative and often enthralling book, but it is tough sledding. Readers must pay strict attention lest they get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6037-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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