A short novel that tells a formidable story in a small package, even if it sprints through some of the typical thriller’s...

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The Red Phone

In Clark’s debut thriller, the U.S. president and various experts scramble to stop Muslim terrorists from detonating a nuclear device in New York.

The red phone has become a mere Cold War relic in the Oval Office, so the president is surprised when it starts ringing. On the other end of the line is a man claiming to be the leader of the Salafis, an Islamic faction, and he has a list of demands. If the U.S. doesn’t remove military forces from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, he says, his group will remotely detonate a nuclear bomb in the basement of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The president informs as many people as he can, including the Cabinet, without inciting public panic. As they work at cracking the code on a lock that’s securing the device, they also search for the Salafis’ location—but time is quickly running out. Clark generates a suspenseful story in minimal space—it’s well under 100 pages long—by keeping the bulk of the action inside the Oval Office. There are frequent discussions of hypotheticals, but their repetitive nature is effective: The question of whether to inform the public of the bomb, for example, results in endless debate and serves as a constant reminder of the president’s seemingly impossible task. Meanwhile, the Salafi leader’s repeated insistence that they aren’t “madmen” only highlights their desperation. The story’s minimal description focuses the story on the disastrous consequences if the terrorists are successful. Its miniscule length doesn’t leave much room for character development, but that’s no problem with such interesting characters as Timothy McIntosh, an eccentric, code-breaking Scotsman who absurdly insists on always having a bottle of Scotch at hand. However, the widowed president’s relationship with Washington Post reporter Joyce Ramirez is disappointingly brief.

A short novel that tells a formidable story in a small package, even if it sprints through some of the typical thriller’s finer points.

Pub Date: June 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1490586816

Page Count: 74

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2014

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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