The premise of the novel, based on an actual case, is straightforward: Harriet Ormond, the mistress of Oranmore, locks her...



Like an Irish Upstairs Downstairs but much darker, McGill’s first novel examines the events surrounding a child’s death in 1892 from the point of view of both her aristocratic mother and a young housemaid.

The premise of the novel, based on an actual case, is straightforward: Harriet Ormond, the mistress of Oranmore, locks her 4-year-old daughter Charlotte in a wardrobe room with her hands tied as punishment for soiling herself; when Harriet unlocks the door three hours later, Charlotte has asphyxiated; Harriet is charged with killing her child. Seventy years later, Ornamore has become a nursing home where Harriet’s granddaughter Annie visits Maddie McGlade, a former Ormond servant. Maddie gives Annie the diary Harriet kept during her year in prison and tells her own secret memories. Shifting between Maddie’s version of events and Harriet’s, the novel gives a broad picture of the politics and socio-economic realities of late 19th-century Northern Ireland (the Ormonds are Catholic landowners in favor of Home Rule) while offering an intricate, in-depth character study of Harriet’s tortured soul. Talk about Tiger moms—as the diary begins, it is hard to feel sympathy for such a harsh, seemingly unfeeling woman, and certainly that is how Maddie judges her mistress. But the diary gradually reveals Harriet’s complexity. Having felt unloved as a child, she is devoted to her own children and her thoughtful, well-meaning husband Edward. But she lacks imagination and flexibility. A frazzled young mother of nine running a huge estate on a shoestring, she feels duty-bound to be strict. Jealous of her charming, well-educated younger sister Julia, who has come to live at Oranmore after their parents’ deaths, Harriet knows and secretly relies on the fact that Julia regularly circumvents her punishments. When she locks Charlotte in the wardrobe, she assumes Julia will unlock the door to care for her. But as Maddie’s story unfolds it becomes obvious that Harriet has less control over life than she thinks.

Pub Date: July 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1159-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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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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