Annoyingly repetitious, especially at midpoint, but amply rewarding at the end—which, of course, is the beginning.

IN THE COMPANY OF LIARS

The author of Jury of One (2004), etc., returns with another thriller in which past really is prologue.

Perhaps taking his cue from the film Memento, which tells its story in reverse chronology, Ellis launches his latest with the climaxes of a case that began 11 years earlier. Then, in a series of flashbacks, he works through the clues behind the clues that led to these two events. In the first, the body of best-selling novelist Allison Pagone is found in a blood-splattered bathroom, an apparent suicide. In the second, American forces in the Sudan nab elusive terrorist leader Mushan al-Bakhari in “a moment for which all Americans have waited for years” (meaning Mushan is you know who). How are the events connected? Ellis takes a while to tie these threads together. Initially, he focuses, as in prior novels, on political corruption. Pagone, it seems, killed herself after murdering a lover who was about to finger her ex-husband for bribing U.S. senators to influence their votes on legislation favoring a drug company. One of her earrings turns up at the crime scene, as does a strand of hair bearing her DNA. She also had hacked into the victim’s computer to make it seem he sent her an e-mail that, in turn, she can use as an alibi. Ellis practically drums these and other clues into the reader, perhaps having trouble getting up to speed in reverse. Eventually, he eases up as the terrorism angle becomes integral. It’s revealed that a doctor plans to spike the drug company’s baby aspirin with an undetectable, fatal poison. Plans to foil that plot explain all that precedes and may send some readers back to page one to see how nothing was what it seemed.

Annoyingly repetitious, especially at midpoint, but amply rewarding at the end—which, of course, is the beginning.

Pub Date: April 7, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-15247-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

more