THE LAST DEFECTOR

Cape (The Cambridge Theorem, 1990) again proves that the Cold War thriller has legs by showing the inner workings of a fresh locale, the British Mission to the UN in New York—and piling on the plot twists till the mind boggles. Perhaps it should be called the Coolish War, since the story is set in an imagined post-Gorbachev period when the Yanks and their allies are negotiating with the Soviet Union over a demilitarized zone across Europe. But some unreconstructed Commies will never learn. Derek Smailes, the hero of Cape's first thriller as a Cambridge detective sergeant, is now a junior security man at the Mission, living in Brooklyn and romancing a comely Brit several social cuts above him, whom he sees as a designer socialist who would faint at a glimpse of polyester. The author makes much of New York and its ways seen through the eyes of an Englishman who was half in love with America before he crossed the pond. Cape also seems to know spycraft and the activities of the Mission from the inside, providing the sort of details that lesser writers neglect. The description of how a Russian is encouraged to defect, and then used, is of sustained interest. In general, however, Cape's Russians come across as strictly stock characters in their clichÇd milieu. But the games they play are what counts in this genre, and their wiles keep the hero jumping. There is still a touch of the methodical policeman in Smailes's makeup, which adds to his believability but may make him a little sobersided for readers who like dash in their heroes. An excellent spy yarn—with a modestly engaging British hero snarled in a complex plot.

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-41572-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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