ALL OTHER NIGHTS

Horn (The World to Come, 2006, etc.) details the adventures of a young Jewish spy for the Union.

In the hours before Passover 1862, 19-year-old Jacob Rappaport emerges from a smuggler’s barrel onto the New Orleans waterfront. The son of a wealthy New York merchant, he joined the Union Army to avoid an arranged marriage and has been sent South to kill his Uncle Harry, suspected (rightly) of planning to assassinate Lincoln. Jacob slips poison into his uncle’s seder wine, and Harry expires spectacularly, vomiting black bile onto the silver trays. Regrettably, this is the most dramatic moment in the novel. Jacob’s next assignment is to infiltrate a Virginia household and marry beautiful Rebel spy Eugenia Levy. Assisted by her three sisters, she’s passing on military secrets blabbed by a Union officer too pompous to realize “that ladies also have brains.” Horn’s Dan Brown–like fascination with codes and passwords is unlikely to be shared by readers, nor is the romance terribly compelling. Jacob falls for Eugenia and succeeds in marrying her, but his ambivalent vacillations between shame and bravado make him a weak hero. Eventually the sisters are arrested and Eugenia is reported dead: more shame for Jacob, who has now betrayed his wife as well as killed his uncle. His mission is over, but the novel is only half finished. Jacob returns to the South as a regular soldier—primarily, one suspects, so Horn can work Grant’s order to expel Jews into the plot. Crippled and partially blinded in an accident, Jacob volunteers for one last mission, which involves gaining the trust of Judah Benjamin, the Jewish brains behind the Confederacy in Richmond. Two big questions remain: Is Eugenia still alive? Will Jacob be a fool for love? Make that three: Does anyone care?

Turgid and meandering.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06492-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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