RAILROAD SCHEMES

An unlikely banditry duo—a 30ish Irish ÇmigrÇ and a 15-year- old girl who packs a Remington and reads Jane Austen—profit (and lose) in the 1850 railroad wars: Holland's latest gritty, action- thumping tale set in Old Los Angeles (Pacific Street, 1992, etc.). Lily Springbreeze Viner, motherless daughter of a small-time gambler and crook who taught her to shoot but wouldn't allow her to go to school, cherishes her books more than anything else, books that tell her there's a kind of life other than robbing and running. In Nevada territory, when a stagecoach job is planned with red-haired King Callahan, Lily agrees to play a part as long as there's no killing—despite the fact that she'll be riding in the coach with one-armed Brand, the shrewd and dangerous Railroad agent. A killing does take place, and, later, mean Dad gets his—as Lily is snatched away by King, who, to his own surprise, knows he'll take care of her. And eventually, in ``Sonoratown,'' a community of Mexican/Californians, Lily warms up to King. There, in the household of a cantina owner, the widowed Serafa, and her daughters, she finds a home. King and Serafa also have a smoldering affair. Serafa's late husband was a partner of King's, but now she wants King to live a steady, lawful life. Meantime, Brand, treated badly by the bigwigs of the Railroad (though he loved ``the spirit, the sheer will that blasted tunnels through mountains'') is on King's trail. There are minor jobs and a big one looming, but can King—product of a cruel childhood and son of a father hanged for poaching—really ``dance without the storm''? At the close, there are more killings, a tragic resolution, and Lily galloping off alone as Brand ``keeps hold on her with his eyes.'' A rousing, companionable tale with attractive people, full of dash, thundering hoofbeats, and clattering wheels on new-forged rails.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-86405-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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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