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CALLED TO ACCOUNT

Tender love and chilling mob violence alternate in this engaging, disturbing period drama.

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Twenty-something twins travel to Frankfurt, where unexpected adventure and turmoil await them.

The fourth installment of West’s Sir Anthony Standen Adventures opens in the summer of 1612. The family vineyard near Rome is producing well, and Sir Anthony decides to purchase the adjacent vineyard. Now they must expand their market for an anticipated increased yield. Maria suggests that she and her brother Antonio bring samples of their wine to the Frankfurt Trade Fair, where they hope to attract a large wine merchant. Little do the siblings suspect that they will find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery and political upheaval that will put their lives in danger. They enter Frankfurt, and as they gaze around at the vibrant, bustling main market square, Antonio notices that a handsome young man is admiring Maria. Enter Manuel Nuñez, a doctor with a complicated past who adds a new layer of interest to the novel. When Maria and Antonio visit the home of pawnbrokers Edith and Daniel Bamberger and later find the elderly Jewish couple’s murdered bodies, they vow to ferret out the killers, winding up embroiled in the “Fettmilch uprising,” a historically documented savage siege against Frankfurt’s small Jewish community. Here West reaches the heart of this episode—the story of the political unrest among the town merchants and the vicious antisemitism that is roiling Frankfurt. The early part of this installment, which for the first time uses the second generation of Standens exclusively as lead protagonists, progresses slowly, focusing on the budding romance between Maria and Manuel rather than on adventure. But with the discovery of the Bamberger murders, the narrative accelerates and moves into the realms of meticulous investigation, espionage, and high action that are the hallmarks of the Standen Adventures. West, as always, sprinkles informative historical tidbits within the story and seamlessly integrates early-17th-century conventions, styles, and such miraculous innovations as Manuel’s gadget the Janssenscope, a prototype microscope.

Tender love and chilling mob violence alternate in this engaging, disturbing period drama.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-915225-07-8

Page Count: 255

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE SWALLOWED MAN

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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