The egregious misdeeds and their scientific detection are extraordinarily absorbing; the stolen painting belongs in another...




Capacious study of some nefarious Parisians during the years before World War I, incongruously framed by the tale of Mona Lisa’s famed disappearance in 1911.

Co-authors Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (Seven Paths to Death, 2008, etc.) spotlight the City of Light’s darker elements, from public perversions and private infidelities to thievery, rape and murder. They juxtapose a host of seedy characters against a Who’s Who of European modernism. The budding careers of Debussy, Satie, Apollinaire, Proust and Picasso provide a high-art context for some of the most sensational criminal cases of early 20th-century France. Marguerite Steinheil, already notorious as the mistress of French President Faurel, was accused of murdering her husband and mother in order to marry yet another lover. A hideously decomposed corpse discovered in the woods outside Paris was eventually linked through the new science of forensics to a reeking trunk found nearby, and through that to a prostitute and her accomplice in a badger-game scam. A serial killer who admitted to vampirism and a tailor who murdered a friend for money, chopped him up and distributed the body parts in neighborhoods across Paris are among the other unsavory individuals profiled. Though the authors strive to anchor these stories in a narrative of Mona Lisa’s theft from the Louvre, returning to that altogether dissimilar case every few chapters, the notorious art crime is more comprehensively reexamined in R.A. Scotti’s Vanished Smile (2009). A more fitting narrative armature for the Hooblers’ parade of gruesomeness would have been their well-explicated sections on criminological innovations of the time. Chapters such as “Science vs. Crime” and “The Man Who Measured People” are gripping, satisfying and edifying.

The egregious misdeeds and their scientific detection are extraordinarily absorbing; the stolen painting belongs in another book.

Pub Date: April 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-01790-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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