A lively thriller that gets tripped up on its own satirical message.

REVENGE OF THE ELDERS OF ZION

A spurned studio heir attempts to form a real-life Jewish cabal in this comic novel.

Following the death of his father, 20-something aspiring screenwriter David Zelig watches as the family film company, Zelig Pictures, is stolen from him by an anti-Semite. He decides to seek help from the fabled Elders of Zion—the shadowy Jewish cabal that secretly controls the world—only to learn that the group is just an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. But, David wonders, what if they were real? Using the rash of recent synagogue shootings as a rallying cry, David enlists his two best friends—straight-laced techie Jordan Brody and carefree playboy Mitchell Joffe—to form the Trio (since calling themselves the Elders of Zion would be too much of a giveaway). As the three set out to gain some influence, they quickly run up against the plethora of secret societies that are already operating in America: Islamic terrorists, the Knights Templar, and even a lost tribe descended from the last czar of Russia. Forced to scramble to keep from winding up the victim of these various plotters, David finds himself tasked with stealing a collection of rare Fabergé eggs, locating Jesus’ preserved foreskin, and preventing a massive attack on a Jewish lobbying group. But can he get his family’s company back? Sofer’s prose is urgent but imbued with a sense of humor: “ ‘Am I glad to see you!’ David lied. He shifted uncomfortably on the back seat of the unmarked FBI cruiser, his arms cuffed behind his back….Special Agent Marco Hernandez was not the last person David had wanted to see, but he was on the shortlist.” The book is fairly entertaining from a purely narrative perspective—there are plenty of twists and reversals as well as some action sequences—but its themes are somewhat hard to pin down. The author seems to suggest that everybody is hatching a conspiracy theory except for the Jews, which seems like a strange lesson to take away from a history of anti-Semitic conspiracies. For all the imagination on display, readers will wish there was a deeper point to be made.

A lively thriller that gets tripped up on its own satirical message.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-950139-00-2

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

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A smart summer escape.

PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN

Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon novel is a bit of a throwback—in the best possible way.

One-time assassin and legendary spymaster Gabriel Allon has finally retired. After saying farewell to his friends and colleagues in Israel, he moves with his wife, Chiara, and their two young children to a piano nobile overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal. His plan is to return to the workshop where he learned to restore paintings as an employee—but only after he spends several weeks recovering from the bullet wound that left him dead for several minutes in The Cellist (2021). Of course, no one expects Gabriel to entirely withdraw from the field, and, sure enough, a call from his friend and occasional asset Julian Isherwood sends him racing around the globe on the trail of art forgers who are willing to kill to protect their extremely lucrative enterprise. Silva provides plenty of thrills and, as usual, offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the outrageously wealthy. In the early books in this series, it was Gabriel’s work as an art restorer that set him apart from other action heroes, and his return to that world is the most rewarding part of this installment. It is true that, at this point in his storied career, Gabriel has become a nearly mythic figure. And Silva is counting on a lot of love—and willing suspension of disbelief—when Gabriel whips up four old master canvases that fool the world’s leading art experts as a lure for the syndicate selling fake paintings. That said, as Silva explains in an author’s note, the art market is rife with secrecy, subterfuge, and wishful thinking, in no small part because it is almost entirely unregulated. And, if anyone can crank out a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Gentileschi, and a Veronese in a matter of days, it’s Gabriel Allon. The author’s longtime fans may breathe a sigh of relief that this entry is relatively free of politics and the pandemic is nowhere in sight.

A smart summer escape.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283485-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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