A pleasant blend of light humor, drama and cracking historical naval action—another solid entry in the series.



Lambdin’s rough-but-lovable rascal Captain Alan Lewrie (King, Ship, and Sword, 2010, etc.) returns for a 17th installment.

Following the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens, war is back on between England and Bonaparte’s France, and Lewrie finds himself off the coast of Haiti in his frigate Reliant. Lewrie, along with fellow seamen on other ships in his squadron, sits outside Port-au-Prince harbor awaiting the surrender of a group of French ships, as the island's former colonizers have just been expelled following L’Ouverture’s successful rebellion. After a close call trying to save a ship full of civilians run aground within sight of the vengeful guns of the long-oppressed Haitians, Lewrie and the other captains head north, to escort a fleet of merchant ships back to England—“herding cats,” as Lewrie’s puts it. Before they set off, though, Lewrie learns that he is to be knighted soon after his return to England, although he fears it may be more out of sympathy for the loss of his wife—murdered by French assassins—than a reward for meritorious service. During the ceremony, King George III, famous for his poor mental health, extends himself a little farther than intended, to Captain Sir Alan’s benefit. During the fêting that surrounds the ceremony, Lewrie meets the lovely Lydia Stangbourne and her rakish brother Percy. Lewrie hasn’t been involved with a woman since his wife’s death. Neither he nor Lydia are unknown to scandal, and they soon develop deeper feelings. But, as always, new orders come in, and soon Lewrie is helping to test an experimental weapon that threatens to rub wrong even Lewrie’s notoriously flexible sense of military honor. Although the book doesn’t really stand on its own—it’s not meant too, of course—newcomers to the series will delight in Lambdin’s expert deployment of period detail; his mastery of the details of life on a 19th-century frigate; and the irresistible Captain Alan Lewrie himself.

A pleasant blend of light humor, drama and cracking historical naval action—another solid entry in the series.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-55185-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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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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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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