EXCHANGE ALLEY

Densely plotted New York tough-cop procedural that incongruously mixes gruesome walks on the wild side with KGB-CIA intrigue. Beginning initially inside a secret CIA dungeon, this first novel from music journalist Walsh (Andrew Lloyd Webber, not reviewed, etc.) quickly cuts to the discovery of a naked, bullet-ridden, castrated male corpse in the Rockland County woods not far from an abandoned BMW with Danish diplomatic plates registered to a Manhattan address. NYPD Homicide Lieutenant Francis X. Byrne studies the corpse in the gruff and tough style we expect from seen-it-all New York cops until he finds, inside the BMW, a photo of two women, one of whom seems to be Byrne's mother minus 30 or so years. The unsettled Byrne pockets the photo, makes a call on the Danish consulate, and lets Ingrid, who's not afraid to be a sexy Danish clichÇ spy, take him (as a prelude to seduction) through some of Manhattan's more disgusting kinky sex clubs—clubs that were frequented by the murder victim, a Danish consulate employee named Egil Ekdahl, who had his own perverse version of an Oedipus complex. Walsh punctuates numerous in-your-face close-ups of urban debauch with giddy flashbacks that reveal Ekdahl's true identity as a KGB spy who had something to do with a Russian defector who may have been a KGB spy with information about Lee Harvey Oswald and a plot to kill John F. Kennedy. The story falls apart when Byrne's sputtering, mean-spirited brother Tom, an FBI agent, swaggers onto the scene with revelations about Cold War sexual blackmail and the news that nothing is as it seems, including their dear old mom. Byrne is forced to accept the notion that good and evil are relative in more ways the one. Crisply written and thoroughly preposterous mean-streeter. An afterword implies a factual basis to some of the author's fictive imaginings.

Pub Date: July 9, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52069-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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