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NEMESIS SYNDROME

Full-tilt action drops recurring and new characters into a plot rife with gunfire and the occasional explosive.

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Branam’s (Hunting Evil, 2015, etc.) latest thriller finds former Army Ranger Tom Wolfe, now with the FBI, assembling his own covert team to save his kidnapped wife in Iran.

Vernon Crassman blames Tom and Terry Wolfe for his current misery. The couple targeting the criminal CEO is the reason he lost his power and wealth and is now in asylum in Iran. Crassman, deformed and in constant pain from a gunshot to the face (the Wolfes didn’t do that one), willingly trades his stealth technology to Iranians for help allocating his revenge. This starts with a six-man team abducting Terry from the couple’s Lake Tahoe cabin while Tom’s in Quantico, leaving a note designating 15 days to find the woman. Tom’s certain Crassman’s in Iran, but FBI boss Ed Johnson can’t sanction a rescue mission thanks to a presidential ban on operations in that country. So Tom rallies a few capable individuals—some friends (California cop Ray Burton) and new cohorts (enigmatic Allahand, Ed’s recommendation). Terry, meanwhile, may have a means of escape: a potential ally among her captors. Tracking down Terry is Tom’s top priority, but there’s also a side job from Ed (identify a traitor), while taking out Crassman is a perennial temptation. Branam’s third installment of his Wolfe series is his most rapidly paced novel yet: Terry’s abduction happens quickly, and Tom’s team encounters all types of obstacles, from Islamic State group militants to distrust among the rescue operation’s members. The narrative is ample in details (thoroughly mapping out Crassman’s compound) and characters’ histories, especially shared ones. References to earlier books, in fact, are so well incorporated that accompanying footnotes—in one instance specifying how and in what story someone “got what he deserved”—are superfluous. Terry’s not a typical hostage, proving smart and proficient even in captivity. The characters in general offer plenty of surprises; some withholding information could signify a double cross and not everyone manages to walk away from the mission unscathed.

Full-tilt action drops recurring and new characters into a plot rife with gunfire and the occasional explosive.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4582-2068-4

Page Count: 414

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2017

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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