SIBERIAN LIGHT

After four high-tech thrillers (The Last High Ground, 1995, etc.), White does a star turn with a detective story set in post-communist Siberia. Three years ago, Gregori Nowek—a geologist whose criticisms of Soviet oil-drilling got him banished to frozen Irkutsk—was elected mayor of his new town with the slogan ``Can I Do Any Worse?'' Still mourning wife Nina, who died in a plane crash, he has failed to make peace with his teenage daughter, Galena, or with the gleefully corrupt world of the new Russia. One spring day, Nowek's asked by his Moscow superior, Arkady Volsky, to investigate the murder of Andrei Ryzkhov, a wealthy local liaison with AmerRus, the American-Russian cooperative drilling for ``Siberian light'' crude oil in the Tunguska fields. Not only was Ryzkhov's throat cut, but two of the city's police militamen were similarly slaughtered. Nowek's inquiries are discouraged by ex-KGB Major Kaznin and by the coolly cruel Irkjutsk prosecutor, Gromov, who worries that a scandal would disturb the flow of bribes coming from AmerRus. Nowek perseveres, his geologist's eye uncovering clues that Major Kaznin ``missed.'' These lead him to Tunguska, site of the AmerRus drilling base, where, unknown to him, his daughter has been abducted by a lecherously lethal American AmerRus worker, Paul Decker. Tunguska is also home to an endangered species of Siberian tigers under the watchful eye of Dr. Anna Vereskaya, now a murder suspect. Nowek falls in love, but, predictably, his struggle to prove Anna innocent, rescue his daughter from her loathesome paramour, and deal with AmerRus's secret reason for exploiting Siberia—all bring forth resources of character that Nowek wasn't aware he had. The climax is labored, though it supports White's thesis that no change of economy will stop bad guys from being very bad. Almost, but not quite, a rewrite of Gorky Park, enlived throughout by hilarious looks at the old regime, at mud-splattered Siberia, and at the irrepressible vileness of human greed. ($150,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-31688-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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