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THE INVITATION-ONLY ZONE

THE TRUE STORY OF NORTH KOREA'S ABDUCTION PROJECT

Engaging reading, surreal in some of the Orwellian detail.

A thorough investigative report into the systematic abduction of Japanese citizens by the North Korean intelligence network over many decades.

Journalist Boynton (Director, Literary Reportage Program/New York Univ.; The New New Journalism: Conversations with America's Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft, 2005) continually circles back to the essential question regarding these absurd scenarios of abduction from the streets and coasts of Japan since the mid-1970s: what was the point of kidnapping the Japanese and bringing them back to North Korea for brainwashing? The author explores the racial aspect: was the program an attempt by Kim Jong-Il’s authoritarian regime to instigate a “long-term breeding program” through abducted Japanese couples to introduce a mixed race that might serve as perfect spies? Or was the purpose to steal identities with which to create fake passports? Or possibly to get back at Japan for its long history of imperial ravaging? Boynton takes a few of these sagas of abduction and brings them vividly to life—e.g., the fairly typical story of Kaoru Hasuike and his girlfriend, Yukiko Okudo, who were young students in 1978 when they were abducted from a Japanese beach and transported to North Korea. Separated for “re-education” for two years and then reunited and married, the couple was moved through so-called heavily guarded “invitation-only zones” in Pyongyang, a kind of “gilded cage” for exceptional cases. For the couple, it was a way to keep them isolated and away from prying eyes. Thanks to a wrenching act of diplomacy between the two countries in 2002, Kim Jong-Il publicly apologized for the abductions, and an “extended visit” was arranged for a handful of surviving abductees (their children back in North Korea served as “de facto hostages”) to return to Japan, including the Hasuikes. The author seems as mesmerized by all this strangeness as readers will be. More than anecdotal stories, his work zeroes in on the deeply uneasy makeup of the Korean-Japanese relationship.

Engaging reading, surreal in some of the Orwellian detail.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-17584-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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