Stefan Kanfer is arguably best known as a journalist and essayist, having written thoughtful and critical opinion pieces on political and cultural topics for a plethora of publications, a practice that he continues to this day. He is also the author of 15 books, including two novels set during the Second World War as well as several biographies of film stars such as Groucho Marx and Lucille Ball and a number of social histories. Now Kanfer makes a triumphant return to fiction with THE ESKIMO HUNTS IN NEW YORK, the first in a projected eBook series of thrillers that introduces a unique and memorable character.
"THE ESKIMO HUNTS IN NEW YORK utilizes a fascinating but often overlooked and very deadly problem --- counterfeit prescription drugs --- and combines that plot point with an intriguing character in the form of Gulok, who might be a bit of a fish out of water but who is anything but an innocent abroad."
The Eskimo of Kanfer’s enigmatic, haunting title is Jordan Gulok, a former Navy SEAL who is in New York to break bread with Admiral J. J. Clausen and perform a mysterious mission for him. Everything changes, though, when Clausen is murdered shortly after meeting with Gulok, who in turn learns that he is the primary suspect in the Admiral’s death. Gulok finds himself to be almost entirely alone. He does not completely trust his former employer, the SEALS, and the New York police department is after him. Meanwhile, he is caught between a Russian mobster and a crooked Turkish entrepreneur, who in turn are engaged in the marketing and sale of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs.
Gulok has only two allies: a woman in the New York SEAL agency to whom he is attracted but has difficulty trusting; and the weather. A blizzard hits New York just as the book begins, and Gulok, raised among the Inuit tribe in the desolate Arctic Circle, has an advantage even as the weather turns colder and the snow gets deeper. He also is possessed with a survival set acquired in the bleak environment of his childhood, which holds him in good stead even as he is outmanned and outgunned --- though (almost) never outsmarted.
THE ESKIMO HUNTS IN NEW YORK utilizes a fascinating but often overlooked and very deadly problem --- counterfeit prescription drugs --- and combines that plot point with an intriguing character in the form of Gulok, who might be a bit of a fish out of water but who is anything but an innocent abroad. Kanfer’s style --- he eschews chapters in favor of frequent asterisked page breaks --- and the continuing ticking clock that serenades Gulok’s pursuit from multiple sides make this book a one-sit read. Equally as fascinating, though, is Kanfer’s ability to take the wide-open avenues of New York and imbue an almost claustrophobic quality to them as Gulok goes on the run down its dark, frozen streets.
Despite the frigid backdrop that New York provides, Kanfer is just getting warmed up. THE ESKIMO HUNTS IN MIAMI is set to follow.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 18, 2013