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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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