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THE MOSQUITO

A HUMAN HISTORY OF OUR DEADLIEST PREDATOR

An intermittently interesting but overlong book that is not likely to make much of a buzz.

A wandering treatment of one of life’s constant annoyances and worse.

“We are at war with the mosquito,” writes former military officer Winegard (History and Political Science/Colorado Mesa Univ.; The First World Oil War, 2016, etc.). There’s reason for that: There are something like 110 trillion mosquitoes floating around humankind’s ankles and nostrils at any given moment, and when you count up the death toll from malaria, Zika virus, dengue fever, and the like, mosquitoes are responsible for some 830,000 human deaths per year, logarithmic orders from the 10 or so humans who fall victim to sharks. Indeed, writes the author, doing the math, as many as half of all the humans who have ever lived may have fallen to mosquitoes, especially in the days before we discovered quinine, gin and tonics, and DDT. The case isn’t overwrought; yellow fever alone is a cause for much misery in Africa and has otherwise been “a global historical game-changer.” Winegard’s drawn-out survey of history covers ground that is largely well known, including the role of mosquito-borne illnesses in the American Revolution and Civil War and the long effort, planned under Julius Caesar but not effected until Benito Mussolini’s reign, to drain the Pontine Marshes outside Rome. The author does uncover some lesser-known moments, however, such as the malaria research conducted by Chinese scientists during the Vietnam War, and he’s good on why some human populations seem more vulnerable to mosquito-borne illnesses than others. Overall, the book is serviceable but less fluent than Sonia Shah’s The Fever, David DeKok’s The Epidemic, Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker’s Deadliest Enemy, and other popular accounts of all the malign things that await us out in the open air. And readers could probably have done without the anemic valediction to the fanged female at the close: “My judgment of her now vacillates between that sincere, loathing revulsion and a genuine respect and admiration.”

An intermittently interesting but overlong book that is not likely to make much of a buzz.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4341-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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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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