Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Daniel Kalla

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3764-1
Publisher: Forge

Kalla (The Far Side of the Sky, 2012, etc.) continues the saga of Dr. Franz Adler and Soon Yi Mah, who are trapped in World War II Shanghai.

In 1943, Shanghai, the Paris of the East, suffers under Imperial Japan’s iron boot. Allied refugees are relegated to detention camps called "Civic Assembly Centers." Stateless Jews like Adler are confined to Hongkew—Designated Area for Stateless Refugees—a ghetto by any other name. Food is scarce, and Adler worries about his sister-in-law and his young daughter, but the surgeon continues to treat those he can in a ramshackle building converted to a hospital in spite of the scarcity of medicines and only sporadic access to anesthetics. With solid descriptions of the exotic setting, Kalla offers a dramatic narrative in an obscure WWII battlefield. Kalla does his best work in drawing believable characters. There’s the new Mrs. Adler, Soon Yi, known as Sunny, a doctor in all but degree. She is half-Chinese and can move freely throughout Shanghai. Spurred into action by a summary execution, Sunny maneuvers her way into underground forces with the reluctant help of Wen-Cheng Huang, another doctor who has always loved her. Sunny finds herself trapped by double deceptions, betrayals and the sacrifices of bystanders. The exotically beautiful Jia-Li, Sunny’s childhood friend and much-sought-after courtesan, herself is drawn into the bloody intrigue when she falls in love with Bao Chun, "The Boy General." Badly wounded and seeking treatment from expert surgeon Adler, Chun’s been smuggled from a guerilla camp into Shanghai by Ernst Muhler, expatriate artist considered persona non grata by the Imperial Japanese Army. Muhler later disguises himself, takes residence among German expatriates and befriends Baron Von Puttkamer. The baron, a rabid Nazi, launches a plan to mass murder Jews in the ghetto, with the complicity of the dreaded KempeitaiImperial Japan’s gestapo, an effort that Adler must confront.  

Drama-filled historical fiction, with a denouement promising another installment.