A vividly rendered, meticulously researched, and often engrossing read for war buffs and historical suspense fans.


The Ludolf Papers


Conspiracy, espionage, and historical suspense prove a heady combination in this debut thriller about Nazi war crimes and big pharma.

Carlson puts the international pharmaceutical industry in its cross hairs in this novel. The story begins with Adolf Hitler as a bright, young pupil in Austria in the late 19th century under the tutelage of a monastery teacher who predicts that the boy would “steer the history of Germany and the world.” Hitler’s incremental rise to prominence continues with the help of secret societies and dignitaries, including a clairvoyant channeler of spirits. These events nicely dovetail into the main narrative involving present-day married couple Dake and Emma Engvall. Emma’s grandfather, psychologist Gunther Ludolf, was recruited from a university in 1945 to assist in mind-control experiments for Dr. Josef Mengele at Nazi concentration camps. After the war, Ludolf changed his name and continued his experiments at the LabUrnum pharmaceutical company but soon regretted his former work, married, and had a son. Upon his death, he left behind an incriminating diary and a collection of film reels, all read and watched by Dake and Emma, who become incensed that the complicit laboratory still thrives. What ensues is a determined search for the truth and a tale built upon the ideal of achieving justice for those who suffered in an “evil plot to subjugate mankind.” Carlson’s story also poignantly captures Emma’s shattered illusions as she comes to terms with the secrets of her grandfather, who also guided her to a faith-based life. In short, clipped chapters, the novel sweeps the protagonists through a fast-moving narrative with serpentine historical roots. The narrative is excessively busy, however; Babylonian cuneiform and a Vatican payoff come into play, along with a supernatural conclusion. Readers may also find the book’s correlations between the “origins of sorcery and modern pharmaceuticals” too convoluted and conspiracy-laden. That said, this will be a page-turner for those who enjoy historical fiction with overtones of subterfuge, heavy-handed biblical references, and governmental propaganda.

A vividly rendered, meticulously researched, and often engrossing read for war buffs and historical suspense fans.

Pub Date: April 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-3782-0

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2016

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A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images, often consumed by debate, almost old-school in its feminist commitment.


Esther, the Old Testament teenager who reluctantly married a Persian king and saved her people, is connected across the ages to two more contemporary women in a sinuous, thoughtful braid of women’s unceasing struggles for liberty and identity.

Biblical Esther, second-wave feminist Vee, and contemporary mother-of-two Lily are the women whose narrative strands and differing yet sometimes parallel dilemmas are interwoven in Solomon’s (Leaving Lucy Pear, 2016, etc.) questing, unpredictable new novel. All three are grappling—some more dangerously than others—with aspects of male power versus their own self-determination. Esther, selected from 40 virgins to be the second queen—after her predecessor, Vashti, was banished (or worse)—is the strangest. Her magical powers can bring on a shocking physical transformation or reanimate a skeletal bird, yet she is still a prisoner in a gilded cage, mother to an heir, frustrated daughter of an imperiled tribe. Vee, wife of an ambitious senator in 1970s Washington, finds herself a player in a House of Cards–type scenario, pressured toward sexual humiliation by her unscrupulous husband. Lily, in 21st-century Brooklyn, has chosen motherhood over work and is fretting about the costumes for her two daughters to wear at the Purim carnival honoring Esther. Alongside questions of male dominance, issues of sexuality arise often, as do female communities, from Esther’s slave sisters to Vee’s consciousness-raising groups to Lily’s sewing circle. And while layers of overlap continue among the three women's stories—second wives, sewing, humming—so do subtly different individual choices. Finely written and often vividly imagined, this is a cerebral, interior novel devoted to the notion of womanhood as a composite construction made up of myriad stories and influences.

A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images, often consumed by debate, almost old-school in its feminist commitment.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25701-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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