3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2012
There were several things I really enjoyed about this book. It had the expectation of one of the old "noir" movies of yesteryear, with the mob, the femme fatale, and our lone (and lonely) hero.
The idealism of the protagonist, Isaac Sidel, was refreshing. He was portrayed as a man of principle, though not above using the lower elements outside the law to stand up for what is right. Isaac doesn't spend much time worrying about what the pundits will think of his actions - he does what needs to be done. Even so, he never devolves into a caricature of the proverbial "knight in shining armor". We still have opportunity to see his flaws, which makes him more relatable to the human element we all endure. Too bad we never see a politician like him.
The political arena of the book reflects the reality that both sides of the aisle are neither all good nor all evil. This was an element I thought was well portrayed, that it's still politics as usual when it comes to Washington D.C., regardless of which party Isaac attaches to at any given time. Isaac remains true to who he is, not beholden to any particular group or the machinations behind the scenes. Sometimes his idealism gets him into trouble with both sides, but Isaac is first and foremost a man of the law, Old West style. He even totes his gun around with him everywhere he goes, to the chagrin of the Secret Service - funny at times!
Another favorite character wasn't a true character at all. The Ansonia (a very real, iconic New York City hotel/apartment building), with its seventeen floors of circular living rooms and windows of etched glass, was a standout. The descriptions of the Ansonia and her occupants, both in her hey-day and the present, were intoxicatingly rich. It made me want to drop everything and fly to New York to take a tour and relive her glory days - "sigh" - I miss New York City! I loved it when the character, David Pearl, says, "Every time I'm on the stairs, with the wrought-iron rails, it's like having my own little piece of Europe."
Without having read any of the previous Isaac Sidel novels, however, I felt lost in the constant shuffle of characters. There were so many secondary characters thrown in, with little to no description of their purpose to this particular story, that I was continually frustrated. It left me with the impression throughout that these may have been key people in prior novels in the series, but here they just seemed to get in the way. Most of the time their inclusion spurred actions without any defined motivation or understanding of why they reacted the way they did. Without a clear idea of the characters and their internal motivations, it made the action mindless. Then just as soon as these characters appeared - poof! - they were gone again.
Though I love history and reliving certain elements of how actual history ties into this story (especially when it came to the Ansonia), there was too much jumping back and forth between past and present with little transition. Many times the lack of transition made reading jarring, and I'd have to go back to see where I was before the flashback then flash forward to regain my footing.
The supposed big fight near the end was anti-climactic, mainly due to yet another previously unknown character being thrown into the mix. We had his introduction, the fight, and then the cleanup within a few paragraphs. It left me dissatisfied, again with the desire for even a basic understanding of internal motivations to make the "fight" have meaning. I just wanted more.
Overall, I would recommend this novel only if you take the opportunity to first read the other Isaac Sidel books in the series. Armed with that necessary background, Under the Eye of God might have been a more enjoyable addition.
This review was originally provided as part of a blog tour. I was provided a free eBook copy for review purposes and was neither paid nor compensated in any way for my honest assessment.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I'm not sure what Under the Eye of God is meant to be. Is it a thriller that doesn't thrill? A political satire that isn't funny? A melodrama that lacks emotion? The novel attempts to be many things and doesn't succeed at any of them. The meandering story is eventful, but it is ultimately a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Isaac Sidel, the immensely popular gun-toting mayor of New York, is running for vice president in 1988. The scandal-ridden presidential candidate is Michael Storm. Sidel is wildly popular with the electorate, largely because he carries a Glock and regularly shoots people with it, and is largely responsible for Storm's victory. The incumbent president, perhaps an even bigger scoundrel than Storm, decides to frame Sidel as a pedophile (an accusation made possible only because Sidel is inexplicably traveling on a campaign bus with Storm's immensely popular twelve-year-old girl), thus nullifying the party's best asset. Sidel tumbles to the plot only because the president's astrologer abandons him after he punches her in the nose. We learn all of this in a preposterous first chapter that ends with Sidel tackling an apparent assassin because the four screamingly incompetent Secret Service agents charged with protecting him are too far away to act.
Later in the novel we learn that the astrologer isn't who she seems to be, that various would-be assassins aren't who they seem to be, and that a glamorous woman named Inez -- who becomes the most recent of Sidel's varied love interests -- is really Trudy Winckleman. Trudy is the modern incarnation of the orginal Inez, a woman who captivated gangster Arnold Rothstein in the 1920s. Rothstein was the mentor of David Pearl who, in turn, became Sidel's mentor. By 1988, Pearl owns a good chunk of New York City and has unsettling plans for the Bronx. A conflict naturally ensues between Pearl and Sidel.
The disjointed plot careens like a go-kart with no brakes driven by a blind gorilla. It makes jarring departures from present to past, from place to place and event to event, moving in such a frenetic, haphazard fashion that the reader has no opportunity to settle in and enjoy the ride. Every time it seems like Jerome Charyn might be ready to tell a coherent story, a new tangent emerges to send the plot skidding off in another direction. Each chapter addresses a fresh scandal, resulting in a disturbing discontinuity. The binding thread is a scheme that comes to Sidel's attention when he sees the Army Corps of Engineers stumbling around in the Bronx, but the scheme receives only sporadic attention and even if it were believable, it wouldn't be interesting. With so much going on, it is surprising that the story is so often dull.
At its best, Under the Eye of God reads like an ode to New York City, particularly its architecture. Charyn writes lovingly of the Ansonia, home of such luminaries as Enrico Caruso and Babe Ruth. Of course, Sidel can't enter the Ansonia without shooting someone with his Glock. Maybe Sidel is supposed to be modeled upon Rudy "Look at Me, I'm Tough on Crime" Giuliani, but even Rudy left the actual killing to the NYPD.
As political satire, Under the Eye of God is hopeless. Every political character in the novel is corrupt except, of course, for the straight-shooting Sidel. Satire this heavy-handed is too predictable to be funny. The novel fails as a love story because it's impossible to care whether Sidel will fulfill his fickle romantic ambitions. As a crime novel, the story is a bust. Crime permeates the novel but none of it can be taken seriously. The story fails to create the slightest bit of dramatic tension. With no humor, no believable drama, and no characters worth caring about, Under the Eye of God doesn't deserve to fall under the eye of any reader.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I think the thing that really struck me about this book was the political corruption detailed. From the beginning of the book, I was intrigued, and it made me think about whether the book was realistic or not. So much has changed within the U.S. and continues to do so, but if this indicative of some of the things that go on in government, well, I am kind of frightened. How can a vice-president who does nothing but underhanded deals be so well liked?
I was glad there were no sex scenes and no nasty scenes of violence within this book. However, there was some profanity and although not as rampant as I thought, the profanity in this book is hardcore. I have to admit that I found myself bored at times in spite of the intriguing topic. I think that if had a background in politics, I may have connected with the characters more. While this book was not a book that really impacted me, the premise really made me think. I always like books that keep my brain working. And if I study up on my politics, I just may understand this book more.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
My first review and it's a bad one. After an intriguing several pages of intro, this sad little novel receded into a mockery of old time mystery suspense writing. With obtuse story telling, confusing useless characters, and tired, cliched metaphor, the book droned on to an underwhelming...I guess..'conclusion'.
If it's the beginning of a series, I decline the next installment.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2012
A couple days ago I finished reading my second Jerome Charyn novel. After reading The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson last year I expected this novel to be somewhat different than the average thriller and I wasn't wrong. Under the Eye of God by Jerome Charyn is a quirky book: a thriller that doesn't seem overly concerned with the action in the story.
This novel is definitely not a run of the mill thriller. It seems to be more of a character study of the main character, Isaac Sidel. The reader spends a lot of time inside Sidel's head discovering what he is thinking and feeling about everything that's happening around him as well as getting a glimpse into his past. The reader gets to know Sidel very well by the end of the story. Some of the tensest action scenes are not played out on the page but are recounted by Sidel as he ponders the events. I didn't find this book an easy read. The plot doesn't unfold in a straightforward manner. I had to keep reading and let Sidel's thoughts and memories spill out, gradually giving me the entire picture. I have to admit I wasn't terribly interested in the actual plot of the book even though, with the US presidential election held last month, it is very topical. There is too much double crossing and scheming going on for the reader to guess who can be trusted and what is likely to happen next - maybe it's more like real life than the average novel. But I found it worth persevering with the story for the chance to slip into the world that Charyn creates. He takes Sidel back in his memories to his childhood in 1940s gangster run New York City. It's a world of violence and opulence with a moral code all its own. Having a good grasp of American modern history will definitely help the reader understand the significance of Charyn's references to various aspects of the social history and politics of that era (the New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt, J Edgar Hoover, Arnold Rothstein and Lindy's Deli) but it's not obligatory. The novel evokes this bygone era of American history vividly and fondly. Despite the brutality of the crime underworld, Charyn depicts 1940s New York as a place of lavish excess and vitality - the place and the people are larger than life. There's the grandeur of hotels like the Waldorf Astoria and the hypnotic effect of dancehall girls on the men they meet in the midst of unmerciful Mafia and police violence. The reader gets lost in the elegant Old World charm of the New York Sidel remembers in the middle of this fast paced thriller. When I began the book I found this juxtaposition hard to fathom but I warmed to it as I continued to read.
I think one of Charyn's greatest strengths is the unique voices his characters possess. Each character is complex, motivated by a plethora of values and desires that often war with each other. Although the story is told mainly by Sidel we also get glimpses into the minds of other prominent characters and they are fascinating people. I particularly liked the woman Sidel believes he is in love with: Trudy Winkelman. She is well drawn; Charyn creates a gutsy, conflicted woman, in an impossible situation, who is devoted to her children and smitten by the man she is supposed to ensnare. Charyn's narrative style is unusual and nothing is ever described simply. His prose seems to ramble along with his characters' thoughts and the metaphors he chooses may not be immediately clear to the average reader. But the sometimes ornate language he uses and his characters' unique voices combine to paint almost a 3D image of his characters' world. I'm not sure whether this book will appeal to the average thriller reader. The author's writing style sets it apart from many books in the genre. But it is a great book for readers who want to explore the mind of a conflicted character while they enjoy a dramatic plot. Historical fiction fans will also find the evocation of 1940s New York intriguing. I have to admit that it took me a while to get into this book and I wasn't sure that I wanted to continue reading but after I finished it my head was filled with the voices of some very unusual and beguiling characters and visions of New York as it was in an exciting era before my time. I'm glad I persevered to the end and I can recommend the book to other readers. Enjoy Charyn's and Sidel's New York, past and present.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By this time, the day before the election, I think the majority of us have decided politics was invented to drive us all nuts. The ads, the commercials, the robocalls, enough already. I do hope everyone who can possibly get to the polls will vote tomorrow, so we can all get back to normal annoyances.
Meanwhile, if you're one of those people who suspects that politicians are all crooks with an axe to grind and that everything is a conspiracy, I have just the book for you. I especially want to recommend Jerome Charyn's latest Isaac Sidel novel, Under the Eye of God, if "madcap" and "zany" are words that your favorite reads bring to mind.
Isaac Sidel is the former police commissioner of NYC who still carries a Glock in his pants, and he's currently mayor of the city of New York. He also happens to be the current Vice President-elect of the U.S. His running mate, J. Michael Storm, is a notorious womanizer with a photo of him, um, relieving himself in the Rose Garden making the rounds. Needless to say, everyone wishes Sidel would be president, or at least remain mayor of NYC. Those who know him well call him "the Don Quixote of Manhattan."
Sidel was born in NYC, the son of a glove manufacturer who had a silent partner, David Pearl. Pearl is a recluse who lives in a grand old building called the Ansonia, and Sidel is mesmerized by Pearl, the building, and the history of the building. Unbeknownst to Sidel, Pearl has been maneuvering his career all his life, with the side advantage of allowing Pearl to take over the Bronx. He wants to install some military complex there. Confused yet? I certainly am, and I've finished the book.
There is a bit of a plot here and there is definitely a love interest. Sidel, also referred to lovingly as "the Big Guy," is wacko but he has a good heart. Otherwise, I find it difficult to explain his story to you without spraining my brain severely. Let's just say that it's a good book to read if politics has made you delirious, or if you just plain like confusing fun.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
You know that the big thing every one is talking about is the presidential elections. They are even saying how the storm 'Sandy' is effecting the election. Now I am not going to tell you who to vote for or why or any of those things. I stay way way way out of the argument of who or what is best for the U.S. with people. But I do know who I wish was really available.
Isaac Sidel! You know him. I have told you before here about how he has been the toughest, saddest yet amazing NYPD Commissioner ever. Oh and he went to be the Mayor of New York even with his quirks. But now, he has became the Vice President of the good ol USA. And.....yeah more....and he is in Texas! YeHaw!
Okay, did I lose you back there? Are you scratching your head wondering how you missed out on hearing about Isaac Sidel? Isaac is the Jewish police officer made good in the Jerome Charyn series of books written back in 1974 and continued up to 1999 when Isaac started to make his run into the White House. Well today Jerome has released Under the Eye of God. The latest in the Isaac Sidel series.
I have to say that when I read the first book, Blue Eyes, I had to really pay attention to the story line and all of the characters. Learning about the Bronx and all of the quirky people that ran the underground crime. I never thought I would fall for a Jewish, ping pong playing cop who had bouts of depression while still caring so for the lil area he hailed from. Now I have followed Isaac as he has climbed from cop to commissioner to mayor to vice president. He is still Jewish, still depressed some and still loves ping pong. But better yet he is still the kick in ass man that won't take no bull off of anyone. That is why he is perfect here in Texas.
So vote Isaac! Or better yet since we can not have a fictional person for Vice President (or can we?), go read Under the Eye of God.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
You can tell Jerome Charyn is a New Yorker. The rapid fire pace of his latest Isaac Sidel crime novel is indicative of the relentless energy pulsing throughout this modern day metropolis. In the city that never sleeps, the action never stops--from gun battles to political espionage--events keep unfurling one after another. How can one man keep it all together in the midst of all this madness? Well, Isaac Sidel isn't your ordinary schmuck. He's one of New York's finest.
From ex-cop to mayor to newly elected vice president, Isaac Sidel has his hands in all pots, but with a Glock in his waistband and only $79 in his bank account, he's not your average hustler. He's full of heart, but that's what gets him into trouble. He's a sucker for the history of the city especially its architectural gems like the Ansonia, where much of the story takes place, and its history when it comes to the glamor and excitement of organized crime. Isaac is drawn to the aura surrounding these legends like a moth to a flame.
But his true devotion is to the Bronx. A borough ravaged into Third World style poverty by ruthless land grabs. Real estate tycoons looking to make a quick buck through a failed highway redevelopment program only turned the area into a concrete wasteland. Isaac is incensed by the ruin that was brought upon this part of his city, and he is determined to thwart the ambitions of a gang of Texas billionaires and his mentor-turned-enemy from turning it into a glorified military base. Nobody threatens Isaac in his own backyard and gets away with it.
If only, he didn't fall for the silver-haired damsel dangled in front of his nose as a intended distraction. If only he did what the leaders of the Democratic party wanted and supplanted his running mate by usurping the presidency. If only he didn't hate playing along with the despotic director of the FBI in bringing down those who threatened his life. But that's not how Isaac operates. He likes to work alone. There are very few people he can trust.
While the action is set in the 1980s, the shady atmosphere feels surprisingly current. Charyn depicts the dirty deals that go on behind closed doors when it comes to the nation's political power grabs. He masterfully brings to life the interconnectedness of the people at the top and how they do everything they can to stay there. This insight into presidential politics will leave even the most ardent voting rights advocate a little queasy.
Charyn's proclivity toward short chapters helps craft this thriller into a real page-turner. Just when things can't get any worse, they do. But Isaac always rises like a phoenix from the ashes. He is nearly assassinated almost half a dozen times in a little over 200 pages, but he's still standing at the conclusion. How does he turn such a hornet's nest to his favor? Charyn's razor sharp wit and tough as nails writing style provide a somber yet fulfilling conclusion to the latest chapter in the life of his most intriguing character.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2012
Isaac Sidel, after an almost 30 year sabbatical, returns as large a presence as ever. A New York police commissioner turned mayor, Isaac is now on the Democratic's ballot as the vice president. He agreed to run as the VP-elect, but it almost seems as if he's doing it because he feels he has to do it, not because he wants to. Despite his gruffness, Isaac seems to be the dependable guy many rely on to get a job done.
As is par for the course, Isaac is caught up in some twisted, tangled web of lies and deceit. The people whom he thought were his friends and mentors were really using him as a pawn in their own chess game of life. This, like it would anyone, pisses Isaac off. Nobody likes to be manipulated, especially when it's by someone they've respected and admired since they were children. And, as is also usual with Isaac, he falls in love with some femme fatale that is a double-agent and cannot love him in return like he wants.
Will Isaac be able to fix everything or will he end up assassinated by the very people he grew up trusting?
Once again, Jerome Charyn has written a stellar piece of fiction with one of his most-beloved characters: Isaac Sidel, the giant of a man with a (hidden) heart of gold.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This was an action packed, suspense filled thriller from beginning to end You will be kept on the edge of your seat as you read through this and the author keeps sending you on twists and turns, to keep you guessing. While I had never read any of this author's books in the past I was impressed with the rich description and the developed characters within the book. Overall this book has a little bit of everything in it for everyone and I for one was impressed and now plan to go and check out some of this authors' other books!