While this tale moves slowly, the determined hero remains a complex fish out of water.



A novel focuses on an Indian man’s eclectic experiences in 1980s Paris.

As Verma’s (The Fine Print and Other Yarns, 2017) story begins, a civil servant named Sanjay is seated at his desk in 1984. Sanjay lives in New Delhi and, though his job has perks, it is not exactly a dream come true. When the opportunity materializes for Sanjay to apply for a one-year training assignment in Paris, he seizes it. Perhaps after the training, he could work for the United Nations or somewhere abroad. Sanjay is eventually accepted into the program and, along with some fellow Indians who will also participate, he embarks for Paris. Sanjay and his compatriots soon learn that the differences between their home country and France are numerous. They might as well be on another planet. Almost immediately, there is a sense of homesickness. The men have a limited knowledge of French and there is much to learn about this strange city. But what would people think of Sanjay if he turned around and went back to India? Sanjay slowly but surely learns to treasure all that is around him. The Luxembourg Gardens, Château de Fontainebleau, and the Eiffel Tower are majestic sights the likes of which he has never experienced before. He learns to love merely walking the city streets and seeing the many captivating neighborhoods. Later on, he even falls for a girl from Lebanon. But as he knows from the start, his time in Paris is limited. When all is said and done, will he ever go home again? This intriguing tale often progresses at a slow, calculated pace. Based purely on the book’s title, readers will likely surmise that Sanjay will get to Paris one way or another. Yet it still takes a while for the protagonist to do so. Readers must then learn of Sanjay and his countrymen arriving at the airport, getting checked into their hostel, and finding out that the restaurant there serves only dinner and is quite expensive. While readers will get the message that these Indian visitors find themselves in a peculiar place, the information does not always dazzle. The dialogue also tends to fizzle as characters often state the obvious. One player points out, as if reading from a language instruction book, “I wanted to go to Madrid, but I’ve heard they are sending me to Bayonne in the Basque region.” What provide greater, lasting substance are Sanjay’s more intricate feelings. While he learns to love Paris, he still experiences periods of immense loneliness. Even as his French improves and his appreciation of things like the country’s television shows increases, he can often feel lost in this new world. While a brief trip to Provence introduces him to the nuances of the Provençal accent, he remains an outsider. As he reflects on his future options, readers may long to know what exactly will become of him. Although many of the details of his time in France are predictable, Sanjay’s evolving inner self keeps the story alive.

While this tale moves slowly, the determined hero remains a complex fish out of water.          

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.


FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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