“The Panopticon” is the title of a daring first novel by Scottish poet Jenni Fagan, and it describes a halfway house/rehab facility from whose center the administrators can look into the living quarters – including the bathrooms – of every youthful inhabitant, male and female. The story’s central character, Anais, is an angry, sexually-active 15-year-old juvenile delinquent who clings to her eroding humanity while completely mistrusting the adult world after dozens of failed foster home assignments and the murder of a prostitute mother-figure by a customer. To her, the Panopticon is simply a continuation of the “experiments” the authorities (and life) have always put her through, trying to break her will. She has been sent to this detention home deep in the woods after allegedly beating a policewoman bad enough to put her in a coma. Anais, who is usually stoked on whatever drugs are available – and in the Panopticon, the drugs are freely shared via windows and shoestrings – cannot remember the beating despite frequent police interrogations. But the truth is almost irrelevant, since Anais is such a nasty habitual offender that the authorities seem willing to hold her responsible for the policewoman’s condition in retribution for her other offenses. Anais finds her natural “family” at the Panopticon. The lost children who inhabit the facility bond to survive, much like those in “Lord of the Flies,” or “A Separate Peace,” but with more sexual agility, and fiercely protect their own against administrators, guests, and outsiders whom they encounter when allowed out on tightly-scheduled free time. The authentic Scottish dialect is not at all hard to follow, and the writing is snappy, gritty, and profane, with humor often softening the nearly-unceasing misery facing these children . Fagan leads us into all the dark and personal places where her characters live, and we watch them as they abuse themselves and others, casually turn from one drug to another, and curse the irresistible life in which they seem forever trapped, without giving thought to the consequences of their actions or their futures, for they cannot imagine living long enough for either to be meaningful. The book is alternately depressing, sad, and joyful. You will come away from “The Panopticon” desperately wishing someone would “save” Anais, but frustrated at her own inability to keep the demons at bay.
reviewed by: Lawrence A. Katz
When her marital home in the Village is bombed—perhaps in retaliation against her husband, the NYPD stalwart—also their lives now possibly at risk—Daniel urges Molly to accept their neighbors/friends’ Gus and Sid’s invitation to join their Paris break in their Montmartre piedà-terre (French for what is usually a modest city apartment).
Molly and baby experience rough seas on the ocean liner but eventually train to Paris. When they reach the pied-à-terre, it’s empty. The landlady is not helpful, there’s no word for Molly. As Impressionism gives way to Fauvism and Cubism, and the Dreyfus affair rocks France, Molly juggles child-care with hunting her friends in an unfamiliar city.
Inevitably, she comes across a body…
Meet a young Isaac Bell. “With his combination of mental and physical prowess, Isaac Bell could easily become a sort of superhero (imagine a blending of Sherlock Holmes and Doc Savage), but the authors do a nice job of keeping him from crossing that line.”—
It is 1920, and both Prohibition and bootlegging are in full swing. When Isaac Bell’s boss and lifelong friend Joseph Van Dorn is shot and nearly killed leading the high-speed chase of a rum-running vessel, Bell swears to him that he will hunt down the lawbreakers, but he doesn’t know what he is getting into. When a witness to Van Dorn’s shooting is executed in a ruthlessly efficient manner invented by the Russian secret police, it becomes clear that these are no ordinary criminals. Bell is up against a team of Bolshevik assassins and saboteurs. Cussler and Scott have written another wonderful page-turner…. This is historical action-adventure fiction at its rip-roaring best!”—
Library Journal Starred Review.