An old-fashioned and uplifting tale starring a Civil War veteran.

THE CAPTAIN FINDS THE KEY

From the Captain Chronicles series , Vol. 3

A heroic Confederate soldier-turned-minister faces his greatest enemy.

In this conclusion of her trilogy, Durbin (The Captain Seeks the Lost, 2015, etc.) presents the further adventures of Civil War veteran Capt. Harry Richardson, who was captured at Missionary Ridge and spent time as a prisoner of war. He later joined the U.S. Cavalry to fight Native Americans and received a theology degree so that he could embrace the peaceful life of a Georgia preacher in the town of Choestoe. Along the way, he fell in love with and married a strong-spirited woman named Sarah and started a family. But the central conceit of the author’s stories is that violence continues to find a way of touching the captain’s life, and that pattern holds true in this latest volume, matched with the other theme of the series: personal transformation. This applies not only to Harry, but also to this installment’s strong secondary hero, bootlegger-turned-sheriff Michael Gibson, whose narrative and relationship with nurse and midwife Molly Baldwin enliven the broader tale. As in earlier volumes, Durbin keeps the novel’s various plots bubbling at a steady pace, helped by the antagonism between Harry and one of the story’s array of morally conflicted figures, a man named Eldridge Payne. Payne elicits reactions from the protagonist that he’d like to think he’s outgrown. “As a preacher, he knew he should be concerned about Eldridge Payne’s soul,” Harry reflects at one point, “but what he wanted was retribution.” The author has a good ear for dialogue, a fine feel for pacing, and a knack for crafting characters—like Sarah, Harry, and Gibson—who are complex and intriguingly flawed but ultimately heroic. The action in this latest book is kicked off with the murder of a sheriff, a Confederate secret society called the Knights of the Golden Circle, and a secret room whose contents might change the captain’s life forever. Those coming to this volume cold will be confused about the finer details, but longtime readers of the series should be smiling at its conclusion.

An old-fashioned and uplifting tale starring a Civil War veteran.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-973639-22-0

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

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A sadly slapdash World War II adventure.

THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS

Fictional account of the unsung women operatives who helped pave the way for D-Day.

Jenoff’s (The Orphan's Tale, 2017, etc.) latest alternates between postwar America and war-torn Europe. The novel opens in 1946 as Grace, whose soldier husband died in an accident, is trying to reinvent herself in New York City. In Grand Central terminal she stumbles upon an abandoned suitcase, wherein she discovers several photos of young women. Soon, she learns that the suitcase’s owner, Eleanor, recently arrived from London, has been killed by a car. Flashback to 1943: Eleanor, assistant to the Director of Britain’s Special Operations Executive, suggests sending women agents to France to transmit radio intelligence on Nazi movements in aid of the Resistance and the coming Allied invasion. Women, she points out, are less conspicuous masquerading as civilians than men. A native speaker of French, Marie is an ideal candidate. After rigorous training, she is dropped into an area north of Paris, with scant instructions other than to send wireless transmissions as directed by her handler, Julian, code-named Vesper. For reasons not adequately fleshed out, Grace feels compelled to learn more about the women pictured and their connection with Eleanor. With the help of her late husband’s best friend, Mark, a burgeoning love interest, Grace accesses SOE records in Washington, D.C., only to find puzzling evidence that Eleanor may have betrayed her own agents. We hardly see Marie in action as a radio operator; we know of her transmissions from France mainly through Eleanor, the recipient, who immediately suspects something is off—but her superiors ignore her warnings. In any spy thriller clear timelines are essential: Jenoff’s wartime chronology is blurred by overly general date headings (e.g., London, 1944) and confusing continuity. Sparsely punctuated by shocking brutality and defiant bravery, the narrative is, for the most part, flabby and devoid of tension. Overall, this effort seems rushed, and the sloppy language does nothing to dispel that impression.

A sadly slapdash World War II adventure.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7783-3027-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Park Row Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

WOMEN TALKING

An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014).

The Molotschna Colony is a fundamentalist Mennonite community in South America. For a period of years, almost all the women and girls have awakened to find themselves bloodied and bruised, with no memories of what might have happened in the night. At first, they assumed that, in their weakness, they were attracting demons to their beds. Then they learn that, in fact, they have been drugged and raped repeatedly by men of the colony. It’s only when one woman, Salome, attacks the accused that outside authorities are called—for the men’s protection. While the rest of the men are away in the city, arranging for bail, a group of women gather to decide how they will live after this monstrous betrayal. The title means what it says: This novel is an account of two days of discussion, and it is riveting and revelatory. The cast of characters is small, confined to two families, but it includes teenage girls and grandmothers and an assortment of women in between. The youngest form an almost indistinguishable dyad, but the others emerge from the formlessness their culture tries to enforce through behavior, dress, and hairstyle as real and vividly compelling characters. Shocked by the abuse they have endured at the hands of the men to whom they are supposed to entrust not only their bodies, but also their souls, these women embark on a conversation that encompasses all the big questions of Christian theology and Western philosophy—a ladies-only Council of Nicea, Plato’s Symposium with instant coffee instead of wine. This surely is not the first time that these women are thinking for themselves, but it might be the first time they are questioning the male-dominated system that endangered them and their children, and it is clearly the first time they are working through the practical ramifications of what they know and what they truly believe. It’s true that the narrator is a man, but that’s of necessity. These women are illiterate and therefore incapable of recording their thoughts without his sympathetic assistance.

Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-258-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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