A richly empathetic portrait of four strivers in life and faith in old Baltimore.

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MIRACULOUS MEDAL

A historical novel about a small group of characters living and working in mid-20th-century Baltimore.

The latest book from Koesters, a sequel to Union Square (2018), takes place in Baltimore and concentrates on a few days and four characters: young girls Marnie Signorelli and Alice Smaling, Catholic priest John Martin, and a poor parish worker named Jezriel “Jeb” Heath. Koesters follows each of them through the everyday events and vicissitudes of their lives over the course of Easter Week in 1964. Each of the book’s four long sections places the focus on a different character, taking readers into their inner worlds and, in the process, providing a composite and ultimately beguiling portrait of Baltimore 60 years ago—a Southern city characterized, in this book, by old-style Catholicism and lingering racism. The latter is handled with unflinching realism, as when Jeb, who’s Black, remembers hard-edged advice that he received from the men who taught him how to shine shoes regarding how to use the city’s streetcars: Give your fare to the driver without touching his hand, he’s told. “Then you go all the way to the back and sit down….If a white lady or white man have to come in the back, you get off the street car and walk the rest of the way you going.” Koesters follows her small cast of central characters through their involvement with both church and personal faith, from cerebral, compassionate Father John to impulsive young Marnie, who “knew what everything was, just about, but not always the best way to solve a problem,” her friend and neighbor Alice, and Jeb, who “was forty and looked sixty.” The latter’s internal drama is the most commanding strand in a work that, at its best, invites richly deserved comparison to that of Ernest J. Gaines.

A richly empathetic portrait of four strivers in life and faith in old Baltimore.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62720-253-4

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Apprentice House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Follett's fans will enjoy this jaunt through the days before England was merry.

THE EVENING AND THE MORNING

Murder, sex, and unholy ambition threaten to overwhelm the glimmers of light in Dark Ages England in this prequel to The Pillars of the Earth (1989).

A Viking raid in 997 C.E. kills Edgar’s one true love, Sungifu, and he vows never to love another—but come on, he’s only 18. The young man is a talented builder who has strong personal values. Weighing the consequences of helping a slave escape, he muses, “Perhaps there were principles more important than the rule of law.” Meanwhile, Lady Ragna is a beautiful French noblewoman who comes to Shiring, marries the local ealdorman, Wilwulf, and starts a family. Much of the action takes place in Dreng’s Ferry, a tiny hamlet with “half a dozen houses and a church.” Dreng is a venal, vicious ferryman who hurls his slave’s newborn child into a river and is only one of several characters whose death readers will eagerly root for. Bishop Wynstan lusts to become an archbishop and will crush anyone who stands in his way. He clashes with Ragna as she announces she is lord of the Vale of Outhen. “Wait!” he says to the people, “Are you going to be ruled by a mere woman?” (Wynstan’s fate is delicious.) Aldred is a kindly monk who harbors an unrequited love for Edgar, who in turn loves Ragna but knows it’s hopeless: Although widowed after Wilwulf’s sudden death, she remains above Edgar’s station. There are plenty of other colorful people in this richly told, complex story: slaves, rapists, fornicators, nobles, murderers, kind and decent people, and men of the cloth with “Whore’s Leprosy.” The plot at its core, though, is boy meets girl—OK, Edgar meets Ragna—and a whole lot of trouble stands in the way of their happiness. They are attractive and sympathetic protagonists, and more’s the pity they’re stuck in the 11th century. Readers may guess the ending well before Page 900—yes, it’s that long—but Follett is a powerful storyteller who will hold their attention anyway.

Follett's fans will enjoy this jaunt through the days before England was merry.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-595498-9

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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