A quiet but moving tale of recovery from the trauma of war.

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MY HOUSE IN MEUSE

Following her nursing service during World War I, an emotionally battered young Frenchwoman goes off to live alone in the countryside in this historical novel.

Marie Durant Chagall, the daughter of a wealthy shipping merchant, grows up with her older half sister Solange in Marseille, where they receive an excellent at-home education. Both motherless, the girls help run the household and entertain Papa’s business guests. But Marie wants more than their busy domestic life: “I had an intense need to feel ‘vital’—to move, explore and find myself caught up in places I knew nothing of but wanted to experience nonetheless.” When the Great War breaks out, 17-year-old Marie volunteers to become a nurse. She serves in the notorious Battle of Verdun and witnesses unimaginable horrors, until she herself is badly injured; her physical wounds heal, but she remains traumatized. In 1919, she moves, alone, to a house near the Meuse River left to her by her mother, with only a peddler, Henri, and his donkey as occasional company. Over time, however, her empty house and empty hours are filled, starting with the monthslong stay of three shellshocked soldiers. She finds that caring for them helps her, and even after one commits suicide, she realizes that he “had taught me that I wanted to live.” Henri, meanwhile, continues to prompt Marie with new ideas for little businesses, and later, a visit from Solange awakens many good memories. By the end, Marie feels like she’s part of the world again. In this novel, Noble-Sanderson presents a sensitive account of recovery following the crises of war, and it’s particularly effective in how it anchors its story in domestic details. Cleaning house, making beds, caring for the sick, feeding chickens, sewing aprons—the specificity of each of these tasks allows readers to share Marie’s renewal by paying attention to each moment. When she finally, quietly begins to flower, it’s more dramatic in contrast to these mundane realities. The book also raises intriguing questions about war, injustice and sexism without becoming didactic. Some sections might have benefited from more direct dialogue and less summary, and several ominous bits of foreshadowing aren’t followed up. Despite these minor flaws, however, this is a fine debut.

A quiet but moving tale of recovery from the trauma of war.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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

CROOKED RIVER

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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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

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