Detailed, compelling and ambitious historical fiction about the long struggle for Philippine independence.



A historical novel that dramatizes the Philippine Revolution at the close of the 19th century.

In her fiction debut, Palileo uses the life of idealistic young seminarian Placido Mendoza to tell the tempestuous story of the Philippine Revolution. The revolt began in 1896 when a clandestine Filipino independence movement, the Katipunan, was discovered by the Philippines’ Spanish colonial overlords. Palileo uses Mendoza’s interactions with a dozen prominent figures to weave a fast-moving, complex and sprawling tale along the lines of James Clavell’s Shogun (1975) or Gary Jennings’ The Journeyer (1984). Most readers will be unfamiliar with the long-simmering tensions between the Spanish friars, who exercised ruthless power to maintain control of the colony, and the titular indios, the common people who increasingly agitated for their freedom. Mendoza is an ilustrado, a college-educated member of the native population, and in Palileo’s well-staged opening scene set in 1872, the complacency of Mendoza’s world is shattered: He watches, horrified, as one of his clerical mentors is publicly executed by order of the colonial administration. Nine-year-old Andres Bonifacio is also in the crowd; his future as a revolutionary leader is foreshadowed by his angry comment: “God is white...Jesus is white...All the saints are white...No Indio would get past San Pedro, priest or no priest.” Palileo ably intertwines Mendoza’s story with that of the growing revolutionary movement and does an excellent job of capturing the intellectual tensions that led from the first uprisings against the Spanish to the Battle of Manila Bay. She highlights not only Mendoza and his personal struggles, but also the larger-than-life Filipino Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, who tends to steal every scene he’s in. Overall, the author skillfully develops the vectors of this tangled tale, illustrating how all sides attracted equally intelligent and passionate adherents. The story ends around 1898, leaving open the attractive prospect of a sequel.

Detailed, compelling and ambitious historical fiction about the long struggle for Philippine independence.

Pub Date: June 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496021618

Page Count: 215

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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.


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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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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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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