The shadow of organized crime spreads across Europe in this dark tale of vast criminal intrigue.
In this thriller, the multinational action is centered on London, although mayhem follows mayhem from city to city. Illicit drugs and sex are the treasures at stake, as gangsters aligned mostly by country or ethnicity fight a pitched battle that features atrocities galore: A grenade bombing in a restaurant, a double assassination at Heathrow Airport and warehouse massacres. The bloody war is about control of black-market commercial activity, specifically narcotics out of Afghanistan and young women from Eastern Europe. There are good guys in all the gloom, though; if the novel has a central character, it’s Jules Townsend, who co-captains a private security firm that’s on the right side, even though they aren’t above the law. Trouble is, there are no limits to just how low the crime cartels will go, so Townsend and his cohorts must sometimes stoop to the level of the outlaws if they want to have any impact. Every warrior—both the black hats and white hats, mercenaries and merchants from the Balkans, Copenhagen, Istanbul and Krakow—becomes numb to the carnage; the bloodthirstiness knows no bounds. “The Chinese are capable of crazy things,” notes one Russian character. So, it seems, is everyone else. There are a bit too many characters here for one novel, and the plot can get tangled with so many storylines, but the international scope makes for a large, intriguing playground to see criminals at work. Vengeance carries a price, they learn, regardless of which passport you carry.
In Herold’s debut novel, a young, womanizing boozehound struggles to catch up with his elusive Alaska-bound cruise ship.
Young, single Tom Courier has just been gifted an all-expenses-paid trip aboard the Nordic Princess, courtesy of his cousin and co-worker, Scott. His objective: two weeks of bourbon-soaked, coitus-filled relaxation. Things seem on track after he achieves his objective an hour into his initial connecting flight. From there, however, his plans veer wildly off course: A bomb detonates on the plane’s wing, forcing an emergency landing in Portland. Tom misses the Princess’ departure, but his luggage finds its way on board and serves as motivation throughout the story for him to reach the ship. Unfazed, Tom seizes the opportunity to spend an erotic evening with Mandy—the “cougar” he met on the plane—in a secluded hideaway in the Oregon wilderness. Herold’s ominous foreshadowing hints at Tom’s impending misfortune, and trouble continues to lurk just below the surface for much of the novel. The author maintains sufficient momentum as his protagonist pushes on, inching ever closer to reaching his stateroom aboard the seafaring vessel. Yet an ensuing stream of uncannily coincidental mishaps keeps him perpetually one step behind. On his next layover, in British Columbia, Tom finds himself in another love affair, this time with a local surfing champion named Giata. In increasingly predictable fashion, this fling proves more urgent than catching the ship, of which Tom remains in tepid pursuit. Unfortunately, Tom’s seemingly one-track mind accentuates his shallow depth of character and risks preventing many readers from relating to him. Following another airplane crash, Tom finds himself in the port town of Ketchikan, Alaska, engaging in yet another romance with a local beauty. There, he’s hurled inexplicably into a two-man campaign to track down a mythical, luck-bringing sea beast. The story’s rapid pace continues at the expense of character development, while typos throughout further distract from the more subtle plot threads Herold attempts to weave. Despite the lulling effect of its rhythmic, seemingly inevitable series of calamities, the story revives for a compelling final twist.
A fast-paced, engaging trip to the heart of a bachelor, without enough plausibility or dimension.
Merging geographic precision with detailed lyricism, Berry’s collection of poetry spans continents and states of the soul.
The best poetry focused on a particular locale tends to evoke sensory stimulation as much as meaning, and Berry’s collection of nearly 60 poems is no different. Born in England, the author has travelled widely throughout Africa and the United States. With a doctorate in geography, she casts a discriminating, discerning eye on the landscapes to which her travels have taken her. In unrhymed, compact poems—few more than a page in length—the poet speaks with seriousness about the relationship between the natural world and one’s inner world. In “Music of Place,” she writes: “Carried in the wind is the music of place, blown / like washing on a line, white sheets flapping, sending / large billowing folds of sound back to me,” which typifies her ability to translate a place into a finely detailed, highly specific moment in her past or present. Some poems set in North Africa elevate journallike jottings into sharply etched experiences. The dominant moods suffusing these poems are calm and meditational, perhaps reflecting the influence of poet Elizabeth Bishop, who was also attuned to inner and outer geographies. The final 20 poems shift focus from geography and place to reconciliations or frictions with family members; many relatives have passed on but are vibrantly alive in the author’s memory. These family sketches often turn on a particularly poignant phrase spoken to the author by a parent or loved one: “Windows” pivots on Berry’s father’s comment, “I could drive if I wanted to,” as the author notes that her father never owned a car. Few books of recent poetry reveal such a penetrating awareness of how the environments in which we live affect us as much as we affect them.
An extraordinary, nuanced collection by a gifted poet.