A PERFECT SOLDIER

A very well-done if bleak and cynical chiller from an old pro (The Flames of Heaven, 1993, etc.) in which Army counterintelligence operatives battle hit men from an erstwhile Soviet republic. Purposely kneecapped by a local warlord's top gun during a goodwill trip to a Baltic backwater, Major Christopher Ritter is nearly through rehab when he learns from Colonel Jeb Bates that Charlene Whyte, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Humanitarian Affairs, wants him as an aide. The widowed Ritter (who still mourns his wife, a cancer victim) meets with Whyte in the Pentagon, but refuses assignment to her staff on several counts: He and Whyte had been lovers in college, and in the interim she's become a virulently anti-military dragon lady of the left. After their meeting, however, while Whyte and Ritter are standing in a hallway, an ex-KGB general blows her office and himself to kingdom come, dragging the good soldier into a twisty high-stakes game of the sort he despises. Unbeknownst to Ritter and Bates (who's now a player), Whyte has her own agenda. The dead Russian general had planned to sell her evidence that Korean War POWs were executed by the Soviets; in turn, Whyte was to deliver these proofs to Senator Oliver Cromwell, her political patron and a lackey of commercial interests that want to destroy pictures that could cost them petroleum business in the former USSR. Ritter winds up babysitting the late general's daughter, Nadya Morozova, a dishy psychopath with whom he becomes sexually involved. She, too, though, has considerable personal ambitious, and slips away from the broody Ritter. The whole ugly mess is resolved in a violent, ironic confrontation on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Ritter comes face to face with the Eurasian assassin who crippled him. An elegantly written, engrossing, wintry tale, notable for its conviction that East/West clashes did not end with the Cold War.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 1995

ISBN: 0-671-86583-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1995

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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