John Anthony Miller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a father of English ancestry and a second-generation Italian mother. Motivated by a life-long love of travel and history, he normally sets his novels in exotic locations during eras of global conflict. Characters must cope and combat, overcoming their own weaknesses as well as the external influences spawned by tumultuous times. He’s the author of the historical thrillers, To Parts Unknown, In Satan’s Shadow, When Darkness Comes, and All the King's Soldiers, as well as the historical mystery, Honour the Dead. He lives in southern New Jersey with his family.
“A page-turner rife with historical details and timeless intrigue”
– Kirkus Reviews
A novel traces how the construction of the Berlin Wall affects a group of residents.
In the early hours of Aug. 13, 1961, Kirstin Beck leaves her house in East Berlin with the intention of seeking refuge in the city’s Western sector. Doing so means leaving behind her husband, an older college professor with strong socialist convictions, but opens the door to new freedoms away from the oppressive Communist government. Yet as she approaches the border, she finds it milling with guards and workmen. In the following days, as barbed wire blockades are being constructed, it becomes clear that the perimeter is closing for good. Like many others, Kirstin has family in West Berlin that she may never see again, including her aging grandmother. Her only remaining option is to seek help from an acquaintance on the other side of the wall, an American writer named Tony Marino. With his foreign passport, Tony is one of the few able to cross the border at will. After a series of clandestine meetings, he finds himself committed to helping Kirstin and several of her neighbors. Among their number are Dieter Katz, a student undergoing rehabilitation for an attempted escape, and Jacob Werner, a former Nazi doctor under government scrutiny. As the operation grows, the danger mounts, and the government seems to always be a step ahead of their plans. With Stasi (the East German secret police) informants hidden among friends and family, it is impossible to know for sure who can be trusted. Miller includes many well-researched historical details, crafting a rich and descriptive setting. While the harrowing story focuses mainly on Kirstin and Tony, the point of view often shifts to members of the supporting cast. This allows for insight into the minds of many characters without ever revealing their true motives. The novel’s romantic elements are well executed, introducing an endearing subplot and further increasing the emotional stakes. The writing is full of tension and excitement, with compelling and realistically rendered characters. Although the ending is perhaps too neat, the buildup is riveting.
A suspenseful and moving work of historical fiction set in a divided Germany.
Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019
Page count: 366pp
Review Posted Online: March 17, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020
A woman’s outlandish fears may turn out to be quite real in this historical thriller.
World War I is over but its scars remain. On the shores of Lake Como, Italy, Englishmen and women cross paths at a sanitarium. Penelope Jones is certain that someone is trying to kill her while her husband and family are more inclined to think this paranoia is the product of a troubled mind, exacerbated by the untimely death of her brother. Dr. Joseph Barnett in part agrees, but at the same time he finds himself challenged by the patient, as she swings from insisting on violent attackers around every corner to making erudite observations on Shakespeare, drawn from a deep well of professorial knowledge. Further complicating things, Barnett is intimately familiar with Penelope’s husband, Alexander Cavendish. While Cavendish is renowned as a war hero, Barnett served with him in the trenches and hates the man, as does the doctor’s wife, Rose, who treated both soldiers for their war wounds. But even as the story reveals more about all these characters’ pasts, so too does the plot thicken in the present, as physical evidence that Penelope is under assault begins to emerge and the thorny emotional and financial reasons behind even her marriage surface. While Penelope at times speaks of past lives and conspiracies, the other characters must face up to the mounting uncertainty over just how much of her delusion is madness—and how much is truth. Miller (When Darkness Comes, 2017, etc.) promises a story full of twists and turns and complex relationships and resentments—set against a powerful backdrop—and he absolutely delivers. The prose is solid, if a little rocky around the various characters’ introductions, where exposition can drown out the rest of the scene: “Her ancestors had been at the forefront of British affairs for several centuries, revered by most of the Empire’s subjects, but the current generation was cursed by tragedy.” But after these early growing pains, the plotting moves briskly, switching perspectives as the characters’ relationships deepen and become more intricate, all the while peppering readers with new clues as to just who won’t make it out of Italy alive.
A page-turner rife with historical details and timeless intrigue.
Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018
Page count: 284pp
Publisher: Time Tunnel Media
Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2019
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