A nice diversion: second-novelist Peachment (Caravaggio, 2003) writes in a credible approximation of 17th-century prose and...

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THE GREEN AND THE GOLD

A NOVEL OF ANDREW MARVELL: SPY, POLITICIAN, POET

A fictional re-creation of the life and exploits of English poet and adventurer Andrew Marvell.

Best known to generations of American students as the author of “To His Coy Mistress,” Marvell (1621–78) was too much an English gentleman to take his own verse seriously and spent most of his life preoccupied with politics. There was plenty to keep him busy in those days: The aftermath of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation had left England bitterly divided along religious lines, with the Crown passing back and forth like a greasy football between Papists and Anglicans while the Court and the Church struggled to keep score. While a student at Cambridge (a Puritan stronghold), Marvell was recruited as a secret agent for the Roundheads—radical Calvinists who loathed the monarchy and despised the Church of England as too close to Rome. Sent abroad, ostensibly on a Grand Tour, he made contact with Protestant allies on the Continent and became adept at gathering information and breaking codes. He also started what was to be an illustrious career as a womanizer who took particular delight in seducing the wives of friend and foe alike. Back in England, he served as an agent for Oliver Cromwell, just back from subjugating the Irish and now in charge of the armies that would overthrow the Royalists in England’s Civil War. Droll and ironic by nature, Marvell is too cynical to fit in comfortably with the likes of Cromwell and the archzealot John Milton (who dreams of infiltrating the Vatican with a cadre of Protestant moles), but he marches in Cromwell’s funeral procession and secures Milton’s release from prison after the fall of the Commonwealth. Balance, restraint, and reason were, after all, the hallmarks of the metaphysical poets.

A nice diversion: second-novelist Peachment (Caravaggio, 2003) writes in a credible approximation of 17th-century prose and gives fresh insight into a fascinating character in a turbulent age.

Pub Date: June 16, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-31450-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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.

ONE GOOD DEED

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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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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