Archive for the ‘John’s Reviews’ Category


Washington Post review: Beautiful Children by Charles Bock

Reviewed by John Burdett
20th January 2008

Las Vegas is the expression, in glitter and concrete, of America’s brittle
and mutating id. This is not the argument of Charles Bock’s exceptional
Beautiful Children, so much as the fact from which he explores the survival
strategies – usually doomed – of the citizen-mutants themselves. Continue Reading…


Washington Post review: The Third Brother by Nick McDonell

A young reporter stumbles into Bangkok drug-trafficking.

Reviewed by John Burdett
Sunday, November 6, 2005

In 2002, at the astonishing age of 17, Nick McDonell wrote a fine novel about Manhattan called Twelve, which became an international bestseller and was highly praised for its mastery of teen-talk (comparisons with Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye were made). I’m prepared to bet that once the euphoria faded, McDonell became the victim of a form of panic that follows every such triumph: Can I do it again, or was it just a fluke? Shrewdly, he realized that his gift was all about the imaginative recreation of contemporary urban experience, but he didn’t want to repeat himself; in other words, he needed another New York.
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Washington Post review: Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith

Hazardous Material

Reviewed by John Burdett
Sunday, November 28, 2004

The hero of Martin Cruz Smith’s Wolves Eat Dogs, Arkady Renko, comes with one of the most illustrious pedigrees in thriller fiction.

Many storytellers saw in the Cold War an opportunity not seen since Homer sang the siege of Troy, but, so far as I know, Smith was the only American writer who dared think out of the box to the point of making his hero a genuine communist. And what a magnificent protagonist Arkady is: zealous investigator for the state prosecutor in Moscow, a Russian to his fingertips, wittily acerbic, sickly pale, rail-thin because he is nourished mostly on nicotine, deeply committed to the lost egalitarian principles of socialism and therefore at odds with both the Party and the West, sardonically pursuing his true love, Irina, across oceans. Continue Reading…


Washington Post review: Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley

Riot Act
Reviewed by John Burdett

Sunday, July 25, 2004

It is a matter of legend that Walter Mosley’s career took off one fine day in 1992 when Bill Clinton named him as one of his favorite novelists. Mosley fits squarely within the tradition of African American authors writing about race and blackness and has been compared to Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man). In an interview with the New York Times recently, Mosley said: “I have never met an African American who was surprised by the attack on the World Trade Center. Blacks do not see America as the great liberator of the world. Blacks understand how the rest of the world sees us, because we have also been the victims of American imperialism.”
Continue Reading…