A thrilling, satisfying and multilayered adventure story.

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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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A daring concept not so daringly developed.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS

In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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