Readers who appreciate historical fiction will find much to like, and if Goldstein could apply the same level of ability to...



Two historians journey to France to find a mysterious village with ties to historic Jewish persecution in Goldstein’s (Princess of the Blood, 2007, etc.) new novel.

When Professor Henry “Henner” Marcus receives a letter from his cousin Nina who disappeared five years ago, he has acute misgivings about traveling from Chicago to Toulouse with a large sum of money, as per Nina’s instructions. But Henner’s strong sense of family and academic curiosity drive him to commit to the adventure. When Nina finally shows herself, Henner is drawn further into the mystery through a codex allegedly written by Dina, a Jewish woman who founded a community high in the Pyrenees Mountains that has retained its isolation over the centuries; it is Valladine—the place where Nina was born during her parents’ escape from the Nazis and where she returns as an adult when she abandons her academic career. Henner and Nina’s friend Etoile set to the task of translating the codex while Nina returns to her adopted medieval village, where she may face punishment for removing the document. Parallels and reflections abound among the several interwoven plot lines: Dina’s story, Nina’s story, Henner’s family history and contemporary events. Goldstein—historian, literary translator and editor—shows a talent for making historical events feel relevant and alive. Dina’s story is captivating; Goldstein describes the various settings—a mountain village, a forlorn jail cell—with prose that is both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually satisfying. She wavers, however, on her more contemporary subjects. She uses the same language when following Henner, Etoile and Nina on their travels through 1970s France and America as she does when describing the 1300s. Even their conversations sport a pedantic tone with a liberal peppering of highbrow vocabulary; the result is a constant, solemn cadence that grows heavy-handed over 400 pages.

Readers who appreciate historical fiction will find much to like, and if Goldstein could apply the same level of ability to her modern-day characters as she does to her historical figures, the book may find a broader audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450251082

Page Count: 412

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2010

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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