The Special Prisoner

Jim Lehrer, Author, James Lehrer, Author Random House Inc $23.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-375-50371-9
As in his previous novel, White Widow, the plot of newscaster-writer Lehrer's newest book turns on a chance encounter. In this case the pivotal meeting is between retired Methodist Bishop John Quincy Watson of San Antonio, Tex., an elderly ex-B-29 pilot and POW, and a Japanese businessman in whose eyes Watson sees the stare of the interrogator who tortured him. Incredulous that his old nemesis could have survived, Watson nevertheless discovers that the stranger has checked into a San Diego hotel under the interrogator's last name, and he decides to confront him. Mr. Tashimoto, however, denies he is the former camp official his prisoners nicknamed ""the Hyena"" because of his sadistic laugh. With this tension-filled standoff underway, Lehrer suspensefully alternates between Watson's harrowing memories of WWII and his present-day cat-and-mouse interrogation with the roles reversed. The first half of the narrative is a provocative, at times wrenching, dramatization of racism, war crimes and revenge--with right not necessarily on Watson's side--but the second is deprived of much of its drive when Watson tragically loses control of the situation and is brought to trial for his violent behavior. Although the ending does not satisfactorily resolve the moral ambiguity of its tantalizing premise, Lehrer's novel successfully illuminates still-sensitive issues for both the U.S. and Japan. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
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