A disappointment, though no book by this skillful and ambitious writer is without interest.

THE RED-HAIRED WOMAN

A youthful misdeed prompts lifelong guilt in the protagonist of this brooding novel about fathers, sons, and the power of stories by Nobel laureate Pamuk (A Strangeness in My Mind, 2015, etc.).

In the summer of 1986, high school student Cem Çelik is working for a well digger on the outskirts of Istanbul. The work is backbreaking, but Cem forms a bond with Master Mahmut, telling us rather too many times that the well digger fills the void left by his vanished father, a left-wing militant who later turns out to be not in jail but with another woman. Fathers and sons just can’t get it right in this somber tale crammed with references to the story of Oedipus and its linked opposite, the Iranian national epic Shahnameh, in which a father unknowingly kills his son. Cem becomes obsessed with the Shahnameh after he accidentally drops a heavy bucket onto Master Mahmut at the bottom of a well, panics, and leaves town without telling anyone. As the story moves through several decades in Cem’s adult life, he hardly gives a thought to the red-haired actress who improbably slept with her teenage admirer after a performance at a tent theater near the well site—but that will turn out to be a fatal mistake. The novel has Pamuk’s customary wealth of atmospheric detail about his beloved Istanbul and the perennial conflict in Turkish politics (and in the Turkish soul) between secular modernism and traditional values. It’s also ham-fistedly obvious and relentlessly overdetermined; Pamuk seems to be trying for the stark authority of folklore and myth, but the novel’s realistic trappings don’t comfortably accommodate this intent. There are some bright spots: Pamuk paints a moving portrait of Cem’s childless marriage, and a searing final monologue by the red-haired woman very nearly redeems the flawed narrative that precedes it.

A disappointment, though no book by this skillful and ambitious writer is without interest.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49442-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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