An often engaging look at Germany in the final throes of Hitler’s rule, despite some flaws in its execution.

BLIND WILL

A NOVEL

In Jorgensen’s (Where Did My Money Go?, 2009, etc.) historical novel, a German vows revenge on the Nazis when his wife is arrested for her Jewish ancestry. 

In 1944, Karl Hecker works as a clerk for the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where he suffers the difficulties of war on the homefront, including food shortages, bombing raids, and fear of invasion by the Soviet army. A Nazi background check reveals that Anna, his wife, had a Jewish grandmother—a genealogical fact of which she was unaware. As a consequence, the Gestapo arrest her and ship her off to a labor camp, where she’ll almost certainly die. Karl is cleared of any legal wrongdoing, but he’s heartbroken by his loss and becomes obsessed with the idea of retaliation. His employers rightly suspect him of stealing classified documents at work, and as he realizes how precarious his situation is, he also figures out a way to punish Hitler’s despotic regime. (Jorgensen expresses Karl’s revelation in characteristically anodyne prose: “I took another look at the papers on my desk. I could hardly believe it. Here was a way to screw the Nazis!”) Karl decides to furtively deliver top-secret materials to the Allies via a contact in Bern, Switzerland—an old Jewish friend of Anna’s, professor Frederick Meinberg; in order to arrange the trip, he begins an affair with a colleague, Maria Moser, who has powerful family connections to the Nazi party and control over a network of couriers. As he makes the dangerous trip, he hopes to score cigarettes, which are invaluable on the black market, and maybe secure a way out of Germany for both himself and Maria before the Soviets arrive. The author’s knowledge of the historical period—and in particular, the lives of average German citizens during the war—is impressive. He affectingly depicts a world contaminated by suspicion, in which many lived in constant fear of harassment—even those without ties to the Jewish community. Despite the bombardment of propaganda, most Germans understand that a violent end to Hitler’s aggression is soon to come. Jorgensen movingly describes Karl’s anguish and irrepressible resolve as a kind of mini-revolt against an entire political machinery of tyranny. The novel’s drama, though, is undermined by bloodless prose, as well as by some weaknesses in the plot. For instance, Karl must curry favor with Maria in order to arrange his initial trip to Bern, but she seems to risk quite a lot in order to have lunch with a man whom she doesn’t know and shouldn’t trust. Karl also decides to disclose his meeting with Frederick Meinberg to the head of security at the German embassy in Bern, falsely claiming a professional obligation—a foolish lie that places him in grave danger. However, the historical authenticity of the story as a whole and the inspiring resoluteness of its protagonist still make for a thrilling read. 

An often engaging look at Germany in the final throes of Hitler’s rule, despite some flaws in its execution.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4990-6781-1

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

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

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DEVOLUTION

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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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