Magnificent stuff. Readers who have already been captivated by Connell's departures from conventional fictional form will be...

READ REVIEW

DEUS LO VOLT!

CHRONICLE OF THE CRUSADES

The Crusades of the late-11th through early13th centuries are the subjects of this brimming, though by no means sprawling, semidocumentary novel, Connell's first since The Alchemist's Journal (1991).

Beginning with his enormously successful nonfictional history of Custer's Last Stand, Son of the Morning Star (1984), Connell has cultivated an increasingly opaque, strippeddown style that he modulates to telling effect in this anecdotal summary overview of the numerous attempts by many different ``soldiers of Christ'' to liberate the holy city of Jerusalem from Muslim ``infidels''—because, they are commanded to believe, ``God wills it!'' (Deus lo volt!). Jean de Joinville, son of an illustrious Frankish family, tells of his service in the Holy Land as ``seneschal'' (personal steward) to pious French King Louis IX; but Jean's (foreshortened) own story is preceded by fully fourfifths of the text, which recounts at leisure and in (often fascinating) dense period detail the history of Christianity's long foreign ordeal, beginning with Pope Urban's impassioned call-to-arms in a.d. 1095. The book’s eccentric proportions, however, in no way diminish the effect of the ravishing tale Connell spins (in the economical manner perfected by such classical historians as Herodotus and Livy): a colorful chronicle of exhaustive political intrigue, military hardship, heroism, and sacrifice, and rapturously related ``miracles''—culled from various contemporary sources, featuring such vivid historical figures as Richard the LionHearted and the wily Saracen leader Saladin, and expressed in Jean de Joinville's grave, reverential, utterly convincing voice. Deus lo volt! isn't exactly a novel; it's more of a narrative ``omnium gatherum,'' or ``anatomy,'' much closer in spirit to medieval saints' lives and wonder tales than to virtually any contemporary fiction about its demanding subject (Zoe Oldenbourg's almost forgotten historical novels are perhaps its closest equivalent).

Magnificent stuff. Readers who have already been captivated by Connell's departures from conventional fictional form will be eager to follow him down this curious and remarkable book's intricate, pristine, and illuminating path.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-58243-065-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

ONE GOOD DEED

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

Did you like this book?

more