Reams of expository dialogue punctuated by spasmodic bursts of action: more talk than thrill.

CHAMELEON

The assassin is a woman, but aside from that it’s pretty much your granddaddy’s genre all over again.

Having escaped the clutches of her Magenta House spymasters (The Rhythm Section, 2000), lethal though lovely Stephanie Patrick is rusticating somewhere in the French countryside. She’s got an undemanding lover and the kind of sweetly pastoral life that’s gone a long way toward helping her forget she once killed people for a living. But here comes icy old Alexander, who used to run her, invading her backwater and blasting tranquility into yesterday. He’s been dispatched from Magenta House to bring Stephanie back into the fold for one last job. She’s to find and eliminate the mysterious Koba, an international terrorist who has brutally eliminated one of Magenta House’s own. And Magenta House wants payback. Make that happen, Alexander promises, and Stephanie will be struck off Magenta House rolls for all time. She takes the deal. First requisite is to scrape away the rust that rustication results in. She goes back into training, an arduous process described at great length. But at last she’s ready to pursue Koba, who is as much a professional chameleon as Stephanie herself. The hunt begins in New York, where one Konstantin Komarov proves a lot easier to find than Koba does—both a good thing and bad. Good because Stephanie falls desperately in love with the rich, romantic Russian racketeer, bad because, apparently, even the best professional assassins find it hard to be single-minded when they’re desperately in love. Magenta House, however, has no tolerance for such folderol, and Stephanie is forced to push on, leaving Konstantin to fend for himself—until, in the denouement, he plays a role that surprises him although it may not most readers.

Reams of expository dialogue punctuated by spasmodic bursts of action: more talk than thrill.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019466-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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