Eleanor Roosevelt’s deep, end-of-life regret that the United States barred thousands of Europe’s Jewish refugees adds...

THE MURALIST

A political artist disappears and, 70 years later, her great-niece determines to find out why.

Shapiro takes a familiar ramp to launch her new mystery—a young woman goes missing. The author of The Art Forger (2012) returns to the canvas of art history to portray her titular figure, the muralist, one Alizée Benoit. She is, of course, “charismatic, headstrong, and talented.” She is—must be?—a fragile beauty who “captures the room” and, quite briskly, the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt. Benoit paints for the Works Progress Administration, circa 1940, and lives with “no hot water, no heat on weekends” in Greenwich Village. Her contemporary great-niece, Danielle Abrams, toils in an auction house and pines to know why her aunt vanished. Shapiro toggles her very short chapters between Abrams in 2015, searching for clues in plucky first-person narration, and the lost Benoit era depicted through an omniscient voice. With her Jewish relatives imperiled in Europe, Benoit agitates politically, paints boldly, and pals around with her gang: “Jack, Bill, Gorky,” “Lee and Mark”: Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Lee Krasner, and Mark Rothko. The immortals of abstract impressionism drink, argue, and flirt with the muralist. But don’t expect the derivative deliciousness of The Paris Wife: the dialogue is wooden; the characterizations predictable. Mark’s kisses are invariably “light,” and he wants Benoit only one way: “desperately.” Occasional sentences are howlers.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s deep, end-of-life regret that the United States barred thousands of Europe’s Jewish refugees adds poignant color to this story, but Shapiro tries too hard to make her fiction into moral instruction.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61620-357-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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