Tense and rather lush, expertly working the wonderful setting without overplaying the cultural clash: eerily well suited to...

MASTER OF RAIN

A straight-arrow young Yorkshireman dives headlong into the corruption of European Shanghai in the 1920s—and very nearly drowns.

China’s rich, rotten plum of a port is the star in this very noir debut by British TV reporter Bradby. The innocent Englishman is Richard Field, son of an obsessively upright but abusive father and a much-higher-class mother with whose very posh relatives Field rather shyly connects upon his arrival in grotesquely divided Shanghai. Field, without a dime but well educated and a fine boxer, has taken a job as a detective in the British police force that keeps the peace in the Imperial sector of Shanghai’s international enclave. He is promptly paired with Detective Caprisi, a tough Chicagoan with a bitter past, and assigned to the investigation of the brutal murder of one of the many Russian demimondaines living in the European underworld. The investigation is hampered immediately by rivalries within the police force and by the early discovery that the victim was the property of Lu, the most powerful Chinese gangster in the city. To complicate further, Natasha, the beautiful but damaged singer in the flat next to the murder victim's, proves irresistible to the handsome and grievously inexperienced young Field. Field’s persistent inquiries into the murder and Lu’s doings stir things up dangerously, as the European community has largely accommodated the gangster to keep things smooth in the business sector, and Field would be a goner were it not for his connection to Uncle Geoffrey Donaldson, a war hero who sits at the top of the thoroughly rotten social heap. There is also protection from the good guys on the police force, but who the good guys are is not at all clear, and becomes even less so as the trail leads to earlier and similar murders of other hapless Russian beauties. Sifting into the social chaos is that most explosive new ingredient, communism.

Tense and rather lush, expertly working the wonderful setting without overplaying the cultural clash: eerily well suited to these parlous times.

Pub Date: April 16, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-50397-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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