All the perks of a sturdy spy tale, marred by some stumbles.

The Complete Martin Forn Series

A SMALL TOWN SPY THRILLER

A former Interpol operative and Green Beret comes out of retirement to battle terrorists, a cult, and a Russian crime syndicate in this trilogy of thrillers.

In the opening tale, Tchaikovsky’s Egg, Martin Forn’s quiet Indiana life is threatened by his need to kill a man. The aging ex-soldier and Interpol contractor may get his chance when KGB agents show up at his home. The Puravich Crime Syndicate is looking for a traitor—Martin’s wife, Clara Puravich, who, it seems, skipped town. Soon thereafter, someone abducts his daughter Sara’s boyfriend, Johnny Corn-Walters. Since he’s the last living son of Tenskwatawa the Shawnee Prophet, Johnny’s kidnapping comes with a hefty ransom demand. This could be the repercussions of a tribal war or a move by the local Starology cult, but it becomes personal for Martin when abductees include Sara and his son, Elias. In The Price of Peace, a reactivated Martin takes an Interpol contract to pay back expensive intelligence he acquired while searching for his children. He also has the opportunity to get revenge for a fellow soldier killed in action, while Johnny and Sara join Interpol to try to rid Indiana of the Puravich Syndicate’s continued presence. Later, an interest in the Assyrian Plague, a terrorist group, sends Martin and Johnny overseas in The Pale Horse Returned, hoping for proof of the Plague’s “ongoing genocide.” Wilk’s (The Last Heroes Before Judgement, 2016) nicely paced series delivers its fair share of action. Martin’s kept on his toes, for example, by the first story’s overload of agencies, from the CIA to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And he’s a tailor-made spy, with Clara asserting that contract killing for Martin is a “vacation.” The book’s unfortunately impeded by a baffling structure. Ever shifting, first-person perspective between Martin and Johnny, for starters, becomes hard to track, with no indications of change. Dialogue, too, never has an identified speaker; Wilk shrewdly ensures clarity with oft-uttered names, but that doesn’t make transitioning between narrators any easier. Grammatical and spelling mistakes are likewise distracting (for example, a person’s contacts that “wreak of international espionage”). Notwithstanding, Wilk skillfully ties the stories together with consistent characters and an overarching theme of family versus the life of an operative.

All the perks of a sturdy spy tale, marred by some stumbles.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5371-8308-4

Page Count: 362

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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