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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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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