A well-played mystery for music lovers. Bravo!

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FINAL ADAGIO

On a weekend in 1993, the performance of Gustav Mahler’s brooding Ninth Symphony by a fictive Chicago Philharmonic frames this cleverly constructed murder mystery.

A prologue describes the 1963 murder of Eugenie Leloir, the young wife of Swiss rising star Auguste Leloir, who will conduct the Philharmonic in the Mahler Ninth that evening. Post-murder, the performance is cancelled and the case remains unsolved. Thirty years later, now–world-acclaimed Leloir returns to conduct the Mahler Ninth, but during the first performance the principal oboist collapses and dies, which sets off a convoluted chain of events, including a plot to murder Leloir. Details of reed preparation and the venues of Philharmonic Hall and greater Chicago suggest intimate knowledge of woodwinds and the various Chicagoland crime scenes. Dialogue is lively while the settings and musical details enrich the plot line, and orchestra members and Philharmonic staff are well drawn, especially Mallick, one of the security guards and a former police detective. In fact, Mallick, lazy and almost surly behind the reception desk, steals the show in his post-crime transformation into an inspired gumshoe. Leloir and the orchestra’s music director, Grant Alexander, aren’t as well-developed, however. It strains credulity that courtly Leloir would ignore his obligations as a guest conductor in order to join Mallick in search of clues in the oboist’s death. Leloir and Mallick are surely one of the oddest couples in crime fiction: Mallick left the police force in disgrace because of incompetence; Leloir actively dislikes him but accompanies him in the hope of learning more about his wife’s death. Grant Alexander’s plot to kill Leloir, whom he perceives as a threat to his career, becomes entangled in aspects of Eugenie’s murder that neither Leloir nor Mallick satisfactorily explains. Despite their odd coupling, Mallick and Leloir orchestrate the finale with the aplomb of Poirot at a pace more presto than adagio.

A well-played mystery for music lovers. Bravo!

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Giselle Stancic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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