SECRET WAR IN SHANGHAI

AN UNTOLD STORY OF ESPIONAGE, INTRIGUE, AND TREASON IN WORLD WAR II

Colorful material richly researched, but weak in narrative flow. (photos, not seen)

            Well-written, well-researched, but ultimately flat look at the covert (and not so covert) activities of the various Axis and Allied powers in Shanghai during WWII, by a dean and chairman of the history department at Brandeis (Vanishing Diaspora:  The Jews in Europe Since 1945, 1996).

            Wasserstein begins his study with a compelling look at Shanghai in the years before the war, a city in which White Russians intermingled with refugee German Jews, Japanese nationalists spied on Chinese Communists, Americans worked with Chinese nationalists, the British (seemingly) worked with and spied on everyone, and countless other nationalities, with their respective agendas, plied the streets.  He then continues the tale as war becomes imminent, with the Japanese quickly changing their role from that of a lesser colonial power in Shanghai to controllers of what was then China’s largest city.  Wasserstein looks at the seamy underside of WWII in Shanghai, a tale full of thieves, thugs, and prostitutes, all for sale to whomever needed their services.  Although the characters Wasserstein depicts are fascinating, the portraits are drawn too briefly, and his descriptions of the actions that took place, mostly of sabotage, killings, and beatings, are so dry as to take all the drama out of them.  Though Wasserstein offers tremendous documentation and seems to have covered every source, ranging from American and British archives to war crimes testimony and Chinese and Japanese primary sources, narrative drive is lacking, as if the author were afraid to draw the reader as far into the historical events as he himself is drawn.

            Colorful material richly researched, but weak in narrative flow.  (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-98537-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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