A thrilling, satisfying and multilayered adventure story.

SAVIOR'S DAY

An ancient text contains a shattering truth in this apocalyptic thriller.

Winter’s (Someone Else’s Son, 2013) tense, tightly plotted novel opens with an exceptionally effective dramatic hook: Two men—one Christian, one Muslim—perch in hidden spots on rooftops above Jerusalem’s Western Wall, patiently waiting for an elaborate ceremony to start. It’s a ceremony that has the attention of the entire world, as the pope, the U.S. president, and the leaders of Israel and Palestine plan to handle an ancient biblical text, the Codex of Aleppo, in a symbolic gesture of peace. Jerusalem will then formally become an international protectorate under the jurisdiction of the United Nations, thus resolving territorial controversies that have plagued the region for centuries. Both gunmen, spurred by fanatical visions, are prepared to stop it from happening—even at the cost of their own lives. As Winter ratchets up the tension leading to the climactic moment, he switches abruptly to the story of Cardinal Arnold Ford, who witnesses a man getting shot on the steps of New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the man hands him a strange slip of paper before he dies. Ford, a craggy, magnetic, middle-aged black man, later meets the intriguing LeShana Thompkins, a New York police detective investigating the shooting. They both have hidden depths: The cardinal sees visions (one early scene in a confessional is particularly chilling), and the detective knows both the Hebrew language and the complicated history and significance of the Codex of Aleppo. As she relates this history to Ford, Winter interweaves chapters that richly evoke the various main characters’ pasts. The complicated plot resembles a pair of interlocking spirals, with Detective Thompkins’ revelations taking readers steadily further back in time and the gunmen’s parallel back stories bringing readers forward to the moment of the shooting. Winter’s command of his historical material is impressive, as is his skill at shaping his characters—particularly Ford and Thompkins, whose unfolding relationship is the best thing in the book. The textual mystery of the codex will please Dan Brown fans, and its execution is a significant step above that in The Da Vinci Code (2003).

A thrilling, satisfying and multilayered adventure story.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491705698

Page Count: 318

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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