Cerebral yet heartfelt exercise in connecting unlikely dots.

THIRTY-THREE SWOONS

Russian director commandeers a woman’s dreams, forcing her to redefine her tortured notions of family, in Cooley’s second (after The Archivist, 1998).

Camilla Archer, daughter of deceased master perfumer Jordan Archer, should be happy. The owner of a theatrical curio shop in Manhattan, she’s enjoying a playful affair with consummate handyman Nick. Her group includes Stuart, a wisecracking gay mentor, her ex-husband Sam (they split because she didn’t want children) and her cousin Eve’s daughter, Danny. But Camilla’s dreams are being stage-managed by a mysterious masked figure who will be revealed as the spirit-essence of Vsevolod (“Seva”) Meyerhold, a Soviet theater director eliminated in a Stalinist purge. He designs Camilla’s dream-plays in order to groom her as a worthy repository of Meyerhold’s contrary imagination, which calls for the expression of sorrow through cartwheels and taking roles as sad but ebullient commedia dell’ arte characters. These unsettling nocturnal events prod Camilla to come clean with her intimates, whose fierce loyalty to our prickly and recalcitrant heroine is rendered believable by Cooley’s assured yet unassuming eloquence. What does Camilla, at age 50, have to hide? Plenty—like having assisted, 20 years earlier, in the suicide of her terminally ill father. Eve, whom Camilla grew up with (and who has now recently died of meningitis), was always obsessed with Jordan, and even now Camilla (whose birth—unplanned—caused her mother’s death) still harbors resentment of Jordan’s seeming preference for Eve, a reference that may have resulted in the quasi-incestuous coupling that may have resulted in Danny. Though visceral imagery and scented symbols infuse and deepen the narrative, there are times when the interludes of Meyerhold’s real-life ordeal threaten to trivialize the present-day story. Still, motifs of artful disguise and neglectful or surrogate parentage intersect like nested Russian dolls as these curiously joined lives play out in an atmosphere as insular and fractious as that created by a cell of feuding Bolsheviks.

Cerebral yet heartfelt exercise in connecting unlikely dots.

Pub Date: May 9, 2005

ISBN: 0-316-15901-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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