While flawed, this thriller about a psychopath still delivers plenty of action and a fine introduction to a new author.


The Hunt


The search for a ruthless killer brings together the police departments and the citizenry of two small Missouri towns.

This debut novel, a thriller set in the quiet towns of Blackhorse and Sweetwater, follows a crowded cast of primary characters whose back stories converge. Former U.S. Marshal Stuart Riedel, seriously injured in a takedown, moves with his wife and three children from Chicago to Blackhorse, where he has been hired as a police detective. He immediately becomes involved in the investigation of the murder of an apparently unknown young woman (“There were no real leads at this point, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. He just needed to continue bulldogging the case and working the streets. Being new in town made him feel like a rookie again”). Simultaneously, over in Sweetwater, Charlie Joe Bingham, an impetuous young lawyer, represents her friend Audrey Lemoine in court in a child custody case. When Charlie Joe engages in some courtroom antics that are less than orthodox and result in a violent outburst by Audrey’s husband, Neil, the judge assigns her to a month’s service in Legal Aid. The posting forces her to work closely with childhood friend and love interest Sheriff Jeremiah Stone. Meanwhile, a psychopathic killer lurks in the woods, his sights set on Charlie Joe and Reidel and his family. Readers should understand rather quickly how most of these characters are related, but the real question is who will survive. Buck displays some impressive skills. The complicated plot is well organized, and the author moves the focus smoothly back and forth between the two towns, gradually building tension. Despite the careful construction of the narrative, there are a few problems with the text. The timeline seems a bit off, as Stone and Charlie Joe must be at least a bit older than the story implies if he is already a sheriff and she a licensed lawyer. Then there is the occasional inconsistency—a friend’s house is three blocks away early in the story and 15 blocks away later on. And the author allows a few minor linguistic errors to creep in. At one point, for example, Buck writes that someone has been “prosecuted to the full extend [sic] of the law.”

While flawed, this thriller about a psychopath still delivers plenty of action and a fine introduction to a new author.

Pub Date: July 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5029-6398-7

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2016

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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.


In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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