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REVENGE OF THE ELDERS OF ZION

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

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 6, 2020

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ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

A one-eyed boy becomes a monster’s prey in this chilling tale of missing children.

Thirteen-year-old Missouri boy Joseph “Patch” Macauley was born with one eye, so he wears an eye patch and imagines himself a pirate. In 1975, he sees a masked man assaulting a girl in the woods. He attacks the man and saves her, but the predator kidnaps him instead. Patch eventually wakes in total darkness in a cellar where a different girl secretly visits him, heard but always unseen. He learns that her name is Grace and that there have been other girls down there before. Grace paints vivid word pictures of the places she’s seen and of stories by authors like Steinbeck. “Pray and stay alive,” she whispers to Patch. Eventually he escapes, but she is nowhere to be found. Searching for Grace is the underlying thread in a complicated quest that takes unexpected turns over the years and might well bring heartbreak. Meanwhile, the bodies of three girls turn up locally, and their parents grieve. Is the town doctor responsible for their deaths? A local school photographer? Both? Patch paints an image of Grace based only on what he’d heard from her in the cellar; then come more paintings and displays in an art gallery—an implausible achievement for an untrained artist. Meanwhile, Grace may be anywhere, and he must find her whether alive or dead. By now an adult, he “pinball[s]” from state to state, meeting with “a dozen families looking for a dozen lost girls.” To sustain himself he robs banks with an unloaded flintlock, and he shares his loot with organizations that are looking for missing children. He has “reasoned the truest proof of life [is] pain,” and he vows that he will die before he quits his search. This is much more than a whodunit, though it fills that bill well. It is also a richly layered tale of love, loss, and hope.

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593798874

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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