More of the same: great naval action and deep historical detail in the vein of O’Brian and Forrester.



The further nautical adventures of Lambdin’s (Reefs and Shoals, 2012, etc.) Capt. Sir Alan Lewrie, baronet.

This book begins where Reefs and Shoals left off—with Lewrie commanding HMS Reliant and in charge of a handful of ships tasked with protecting the Bahamas. When a fresh squadron comes to take over defense of the islands, Lewrie wastes no time getting on the bad side of the pompous commodore, who promptly sends Lewrie back to England to have Reliant cleaned and refitted for duty. Once there, left without anything to do, Lewrie must scrounge up fresh orders in order to move Reliant up the long list of ships in need of attention. Using all of his considerable wiles, he manages to get Reliant attached to a fleet ferrying soldiers for an invasion meant to take Cape Town from the Dutch. Despite a series of misadventures, while waiting for Reliant’s hull to be scraped, he manages to spend some time with his new love, Lydia Stangbourne. Once Reliant is seaworthy again, he joins the fleet, and upon arriving in Cape Town, Lewrie talks his way into a naval brigade sent ashore with the troops and sees some action on land. But once the British secure the Cape, the admiral in charge sends the entire fleet to South America for a poorly planned invasion of the Argentine. Lewrie has no choice but to follow orders and does his best to make the best of a potentially bad situation. As its title suggests, several important plot points take place on dry land rather than onboard Lewrie’s frigate. Still, the principal draws remain the same: first, an immersive level of detail on everything from the minutia of life aboard ship to the nuances of period speech, and second, Lewrie himself, a compelling blend of duty-bound naval officer and incorrigible scamp. And when Reliant finally does find itself in a scrape at sea, the ensuing battle is absolutely thrilling.

More of the same: great naval action and deep historical detail in the vein of O’Brian and Forrester.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-59572-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.


In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...


Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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