A tense, compelling peek behind the Berlin Wall.


The Leipzig Affair

Near the end of the Cold War, two students in the German Democratic Republic navigate love, deception, and freedom in Rintoul’s (translator: Outside Verdun, 2014) award-winning debut novel.

In the wake of her brother’s accident—the details of which, like many in Rintoul’s story, come to light only gradually—Magda Maria Reinsch lost faith in the communist cause. She once believed that communism would yield equality, but now the East German system strikes her as one “where favour counts for everything and merit for very little.” This change of heart inspires Magda to rebel against the party until her father, once a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, intervenes to give his daughter a second chance. Now, Magda studies to become an English-German translator at Karl Marx University Leipzig, all the while dreaming of an escape to the West alongside the charming Marek Dembowski, a friend who remained fiercely loyal to Magda after her brother’s injury. Together, Magda and Marek devise a way out of East Germany that revolves around Robert McPherson, a Scot finishing his advanced philosophy degree at Karl Marx. Though Magda casts a manipulative spell over Robert—at one point he chooses visiting Prague with her over seeing his sick father back home—she also finds herself falling for the Westerner, overcome with “an unexpected stab of desire.” Eventually, the Stasi catches Robert and Magda, a turning point that sends guilt-stricken Robert into a long stretch of depression and alcoholism, while Magda, after a brief imprisonment, must once again piece together her personal identity and public image. Beginning in 1985 and continuing after communism’s sharp decline, journalist and translator Rintoul’s engrossing tale alternates between Robert’s and Magda’s perspectives. Written in the second person, her sections are particularly strong, vividly anchoring the East German experience: “You know what the air is like in Berlin…a mix of brown coal dust and two-stroke fumes that leaves a bleak ferrous after-taste.” The novel’s weakness is Marek, who instigates much of the plot yet never appears long enough to elicit sympathy or disdain.

A tense, compelling peek behind the Berlin Wall.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-906582-97-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Aurora Metro Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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