RED SQUARE

Inspector Arkady Renko, banished to a Soviet factory-ship in Polar Star (1989), returns to Moscow on the eve of the Coup—and steps into the kind of intrigue, atmosphere, and excitement not seen from Smith since Renko's megaselling debut in Gorky Park (1981). The winds of glasnost may have blown the insubordinate Renko back from exile, but they've also stirred up the Soviet Union's criminal class, which now rules the land hand-in-crooked-hand with the Party's panicking elite—as shown in the mesmerizing opening scene that has Renko meeting with an informer at Moscow's thriving nighttime black market. Minutes after Renko exits the informer's car, it explodes under the impact of two bombs. Why? Renko pursues leads that take him on a spellbinding tour of Moscow (here, a starving city spinning out of control) as he encounters the new Soviet capitalism (a shady entrepreneur who, with green paint and cutout trees, has transformed a bullet-casing factory into an indoor golfing range); the new Soviet mafia (the Chechens, Muslim gangsters ruled by a withered devil named Makhmud); and the old, power-grasping rear guard. A mysterious fax sends Renko chasing a further lead abroad to Munich, where he reunites with Irina, his forsaken lover from Gorky Park. Here, the narrative slackens into a lovers' awkward waltz between Renko and Irina, and between Renko and the material temptations of the West—though it picks up with a sidetrip to Berlin, the ghastly murder of Makhmud, and revelations of stolen art treasures at the root of the killings. The action climaxes on a note of astonishing grace and hope back in Moscow, as Renko concludes his case and joins the radiant masses facing down the tanks on the steps of Boris Yeltsin's White House. A bit long and choppy, but brimming with political insight and psychological nuance, and a powerful reaffirmation of Renko's love/hate for Russia as one of the great romances of thriller fiction. (Literary Guild Dual Selection for December)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-41688-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

more