THE FIRM

Terrifically exciting and likable first novel about tax lawyers and the Mafia, and a predictable success already sold to the movies, etc. Grisham does not cut as deep or furnish the occasional shining paragraph that Scott Turow does, but he writes a stripped, cliche-free page that grips and propels. Mitchell McDeere, married and tops in his class at Harvard, has great offers from several firms and is hungry for success. When Bendini, Lambert & Locke of Memphis snows him with money, a new BMW, a low-interest mortgage financed by the company, a huge clothing allowance and other incredible perks, (including early retirement as a multimillionaire), he seems to have landed in fairyland. Nothing is too much for the one new man a year the firm takes on. All that's required from him in a 90-hour week for several years and a fast hand at billing clients. Most of the firm's clients, seemingly all wealthy and ready to be billed unlimitedly, are content not to question the firm's methods at relieving their tax strain. For a while all looks legal. Then McDeere learns of the heavy mortality rate among the firm's lawyers: no one ever quits Bendini, Lambert & Locke. They die. It turns out that while the firm has many clients with clean hands, it nonetheless was set up by the Mafia as a pumphouse for siphoning drug dollars and other untaxed cash into phony corporations set up in the Cayman Islands. In fact, the firm's lavish Lear jet regularly hauls tons of US legal tender down to the islands with their hundreds of tax-haven banks and secret numbered accounts. Then the FBI chooses McDeere to be its chief informant and offers him its Witness Protection Program; otherwise, McDeere will be swept up in the forthcoming crackdown on the firm. Although the firm knows McDeere is a spy and sets him up for assassination, he is smarter than even the reader knows and fights back against both the firm and the FBI. Hallucinatory entertainment.

Pub Date: March 15, 1991

ISBN: 0440245923

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1991

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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