An exciting, if excessively labyrinthine, tale of white-collar theft and historical tyranny.

Four Equations

A financial thriller that details a fraud that connects back to the Nazis’ persecution of Jews.

During the global financial crisis, a bank in the Cayman Islands goes belly up and looks for a bankruptcy liquidator to help craft favorable terms for its dissolution. U.S. Treasury Secretary George Brennan volunteers his nephew Jack, hoping that he’ll pass along information about the bank’s ties to Chicago organized crime and Colombian drug cartels. Jack begrudgingly accepts the assignment but becomes more reluctant when he learns of the country’s ironclad secrecy laws. Then he visits his grandmother’s old friend in Hungary, Dr. Hans Arbenz, a brilliant Nobel Prize–winning chemist. Arbenz tells him a story about his own friend, Dr. Peter Gombos, a Nobel-laureate physicist, who died in an accidental explosion during Hungary’s Nazi occupation. Gombos’ wife, Svetlana, painted a portrait of her husband in 1943, and Jack later stumbles upon the painting while attending an art auction. He buys it and shows it to Arbenz, who observes four equations on a blackboard in the picture’s background; the chemist deduces that the equations are codes that conceal three bank-account numbers. Jack suspects that the bank he’s helping steward into bankruptcy holds those accounts and that it intends to enrich itself at Gombos’ heirs’ expense. Jack must decipher the formulas and locate Gombos’ descendants—both daunting tasks. Meanwhile, he strikes up a partnership and torrid romance with Elize Haemmerle, an auditor from a Swiss foundation. Landori (Mayhem on the Danube, 2012, etc.) does a marvelous job of weaving an intricately detailed and suspenseful mystery. He’s at his best when evoking the horrors of Nazi aggression against Jews, and the themes of remembrance and moral responsibility recur vividly. At one point, for example, Gombos’ former student, now an old man, pithily explains why he tells stories of Nazi persecution at every opportunity: “To bear witness. To make sure these things don’t happen again.” The plot can be maddeningly complex at times, bordering on convoluted, and its plausibility is sometimes undermined by coincidences. However, it still unfurls briskly and intelligently, with an astute sense of historical awareness.

An exciting, if excessively labyrinthine, tale of white-collar theft and historical tyranny.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-6625-0

Page Count: 342

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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