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THE EXCHANGE STUDENT

AN IKE BLASS NOVEL

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Agencies and emissaries spanning the globe hope to thwart an assassination attempt on the president of the United States in the second novel featuring retired CIA agent Ike Blass (The Leningrad Affair, 2011).

British agency MI6 sends operatives to Madrid with an assignment to subvert a terrorist plot that’s already been initiated. One of the terrorists, Amin, is tracked to Cuba, where it is believed that a dying Fidel Castro’s power will soon shift to his brother, Gen. Raul Castro. It’s here in Cuba where many of the story’s players congregate: Blass enlisted to neutralize a Cuban training camp, Maria Lopez of MI6 with a vendetta, another CIA agent working covertly and Cuban exile Jesus Cantu foiling a double-cross. The author’s gleefully convoluted novel introduces characters at a rapid-fire pace, and as such, most partners don’t stay partners for long in ever-changing circumstances. Some of them even seem to disappear only to return at an integral moment, like Pedro, in the U.S. illegally (dubbing him an “exchange student”) and deported to Mexico. Blass is initially a supporting character in his own story, but he becomes the focus as he and Lopez keep their eyes on Amin before they ultimately turn toward one another. Amin, as the central villain, is more complex than his narrative counterpart, particularly with the occasional glimpses of his family’s catastrophic past. He proves charming with the ladies, an advantage when he can work it in his favor (using a woman as a means of gaining entrance to Mexico, en route to the U.S.) but simultaneously his greatest flaw, as the opposite sex tends to distract him from his operation. Blass may return in a future book, but any number of the other characters (whether or not that character makes it to the end), especially the composed, capable Jesus Cantu, could easily handle his or her own series. Story and characters that surprise and entertain on a multitude of levels will have readers drumming their fingers on Kindle screens awaiting Terry’s next novel.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983149743

Page Count: -

Publisher: eBooksTalkToMe

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2011

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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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