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November 2007 Book Reviews

The Anarchist by James Conroy. (Hilliard & Harris, $28.95).

Before al Qaeda, there were Weathermen, Red Brigade, Baader-Meinhof and others of their ilk. Whatever happened
to these radicals? Most of them were never captured. James Conroy has an idea, and it’s a shocker. A downhill reporter, Jonah Chappel has one friend, a retired professor of languages named Morreti. Upon Morreti’s death, Jonah discovers his friend was the “banker” for the Global Anarchist Movement, a group of senior and semi-retired revolutionaries that have banded together to form a new force in political terror. They’ve got a big problem—Jonah has found their money. The FBI is also aware of Chappel’s find, and their investigation becomes complicated as Jonah and their lead agent fall in love. The book takes place in Chicago, and the scenes are a vivid, great depiction of our city. The pace never falters, and the plot is full of secrets. Jonah has a few of his own he must face up to if he wants to survive. No formula thriller, this is an intelligent, fascinating and believable read.
—Helen Grimaldi

Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin, and the Discovery of the Queen’s Ghost Ship by Martin W. Sandler. (Sterling, $24.95). 

On September 10, 1855, Captain James Buddington, whaling in the Davis Strait, his ship battered, waves pounding angrily over its deck, witnessed an astonishing sight. Drifting some 15 miles away was the HMS Resolute, a British naval vessel, abandoned more than a year before in the uppermost reaches of the Arctic. Historian Martin Sandler, twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, parallels the disappearance and subsequent search for Sir John Franklin’s lost 1845 Northwest Passage expedition with another event—the discovery of the ghost ship HMS Resolute, Queen Victoria’s greatest naval vessel. The HMS Resolute was found by Buddington and returned by the United States to Great Britain in a 1,200-mile voyage. However, it was the disappearance and crusade to find Franklin’s expedition—the most prolonged search and rescue effort in history—that carries the story. As the months and years wore on, Franklin’s supposed fate, combined with the published reports of others’ adventures in seeking him, only served to arouse a national furor that could be compared with some of the tabloid frenzies of today. Newspaper accounts centered around one consuming question—where was he? Finally, by a proclamation of the British government in 1854, it was made official: there would be no more British naval searches. Still, the searches did not end. Maps, photographs, notes, an epilogue (wherein Sandler gives a short synopsis of the story’s main characters), actual journal excerpts of the explorers and a timeline of events clarify and add original views for the reader. Sandler does a remarkable job of creating, in charged detail, a vision of the Arctic in all its beauty and brutality. The research is solid, and the suspense is, at times, heart-stopping. And, for those of us who are history buffs, this book is an astonishing account, not only of history, but of a nation, as well.
—Barbara Weddle

Exile by Richard North Patterson. (Henry Holt and Co., $26).

Patterson’s newest novel attempts to tackle one of the most complex stories of our time: the crisis in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians. His object is clearly to demonstrate the complexity of the situation, conveying to the reader that both sides should be held accountable for the sea of hate and retribution. Through his principle character, attorney David Wolfe, who happens to be Jewish, North attempts to present both sides of the Arab/Israeli conflict and in doing so takes the reader on a whirlwind trip through Israel and the Palestinian territories. His vehicle is the trial of David’s former lover and Harvard classmate, a Palestinian who is implicated in the assassination of the peace-seeking Israeli prime minister. Intrigue follows intrigue as Wolfe seeks to find understanding of the many pervasive and troubling forces alive in the Middle East and justice for the accused. One cannot help but be impressed at the scope of this novel; however, the characters are two-dimensional cutouts rather than real people with whom we can truly empathize. Thus, the plot becomes a thinly veiled way for Patterson to present
his real case, but the stereotypical characters and their misadventures actually detract from the real story that Patterson seems to want to tell. As a real Patterson fan, I must admit that I was disappointed, especially since this is such an important story to tell. Even so, I would not hesitate to recommend this book for the thesis Patterson introduces, the information he provides and the warning with which we are left.
—Edith Goodman

  We welcome your review. If we publish it, we will send you a gift certificate for dinner. E-mail to editorial@chicagolife.net or mail to Chicago Life Reviews, P.O. Box 11131, Chicago IL 60611-0311.

Published: October 14, 2007
Issue: November 2007