The author clearly believes his subject has been shortchanged by history, but Meagher’s failure at almost everything that...

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THE EXILE

Historical fiction by western veteran Wheeler (The Deliverance, 2003, etc.), based on the life of an Irish rebel who served as a Union general in the Civil War.

Exiled to Australia for inciting rebellion against British rule, Thomas Francis Meagher (1823–67) escapes to the teeming slums of 1852 New York. There, he quickly finds supporters, making his mark as a public speaker for the Irish cause. But while Meagher’s oratory brings him fame among his fellow exiles, it doesn’t bring him a living. Nor are his friends among the Tammany Democrats able to offer him any useful position, although he passes the bar and sets up law offices. His lack of income weighs more on him after he marries the daughter of a successful New York businessman. After nearly ten years of drifting, Meagher finds a purpose in the Civil War. He raises and commands an Irish brigade for the Union, thinking that seasoned veterans could then return to free Ireland from the British. But war changes him. He becomes a firm abolitionist, despite his countrymen’s fear that freed blacks will take the jobs now open only to the Irish. His troops see fierce action at Antietam and Fredericksburg, two of the bloodiest battles of the war, before Meagher is eased out of command, accused—perhaps unfairly—of drunkenness in the face of battle. Out of favor with the postwar government, he wangles an appointment as secretary to the governor of Montana. Arriving at his post, he finds himself effectively in charge, though the local powers, largely radical Republicans, oppose him at every turn. His death remains a mystery; Wheeler's suggestion that political enemies killed Meagher is certainly convincing.

The author clearly believes his subject has been shortchanged by history, but Meagher’s failure at almost everything that matters to him makes it difficult to see why the historical verdict should be overturned.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-87847-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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