A fabulous cache of gold inspires a chamber symphony of greed and betrayal in contemporary Russia. Colonel Oleg Ivanovich Polyakov hasn't distinguished himself on his recent posting to Uzbekistan to meet legendary local gangster Pulat Usmanov, the godfather of Tashkent. Hours after arriving, he's spirited away by Usmanov, who's hidden $8.5 in gold bullion officially destined for Russia; then he's kidnapped, locked up, and put to work by Usmanov's enemies in Khiva loading the gold they're hijacking from him; finally he's slugged and hustled off back home by the minions of his own boss, General Viktor Petrovich Marchenko. But all these indignities are only a prelude to Polyakov's homecoming: Marchenko's KGB superior General Anatoli Nikolaevich Zorin, incensed that Polyakov's helped steal Usmanov's gold, abruptly strips him of his rank, his apartment, and his retirement benefits, and Polyakov realizes too late that he's been caught in a crossfire between Zorin, who's in league with Usmanov to keep the gold for the Uzbeks (and of course their special KGB friends), and Marchenko, who's bent on using the gold to finance the underground dealings of the Brotherhood. Things look better, but are actually worse, when Polyakov allows himself to fall back into the arms of his former KGB subordinate and lover, Maj. Natasha Trofimenka, whose father just celebrated his own retirement from the KGB by taking a fall from his tenth-floor apartment. Bent on identifying and punishing her father's killer, and easy prey for the promises of both Zorin and Marchenko, Trofimenka has no loyalty to spare for Polyakov. Once their alliances and positions have been staked out, Gowing's tiny cast do nothing but switch them, baiting each other with foolish ingenuity in their tireless determination to keep the gold away from Mother Russia. Gowing (The Wire, 1989) spins a series of double-crosses worthy of Len Deighton in this sorry tale of the same Old World Disorder.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13116-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1995

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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