Captivating action, page upon page, from a Regency-era Bond or Bourne.

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THE BLOODING

Matthew Hawkwood of the Bow Street Runners, the British crown's special police unit, finds himself stuck in America, trying to wend his way home to London while the Yankees are at war with Britain.

Seconded to the Alien Office to trouble Napoleon, Hawkwood is forced to escape France on a ship sailing to the fledgling United States. It’s 1812. Hawkwood lands in Boston, intending to make his way home through Canada via Albany when he’s compelled to stop a robbery. The victim, Quade, is an American officer from whom Hawkwood learns valuable intelligence about the Lake Champlain campaign. Then Hawkwood sees an acquaintance, Maj. Lawrence, in a prisoner transport. Ever combative Hawkwood frees Lawrence, undertaking a solo nighttime raid at the Greenbush army camp. McGee also weaves in a storyline about Hawkwood’s childhood. His father, crown loyalist Ellis Hooper, died at the 1777 Battle of Oriskany, and the orphaned Hawkwood was sent to live in New York with the Archers, British loyalists who were then killed by militia forces. Young Hawkwood was rescued by Lt. Wyatt, British 4th Ranger Company, and his ally, Mohawk chief Tewanias As the parallel Hawkwood adventures intertwine—"In his mind’s eye he saw a twelve-year-old boy lost in a forest wilderness, surrounded by shadows"—McGee blends in historical references to Sir John Johnson, Zebulon Pike, and the Lake Champlain paddle steamer Vermont. There’s also insight into the troubled history between the Six Nations and white settlers, although some might find his ever stoic characterization of the Mohawks near cliché—"The other warriors maintained their silence, their faces inscrutable in the fading light." With Lawrence and a touch of British stiff-upper-lip repartee to perk interest, Hawkwood’s a hero to root for, especially with the addition of an intriguing back story.

Captivating action, page upon page, from a Regency-era Bond or Bourne.

Pub Date: July 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60598-810-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

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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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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