FIVE PAST MIDNIGHT

Old pro Thayer (White Star, 1995, etc.) delivers a fast-moving and entertaining (if fanciful) account of how Hitler met his end toward the close of WW II. Concerned that Hitler might be able to prolong an almost-over conflict from an Alpine redoubt, FDR directs the OSS to liquidate the Nazi leader. Shortly thereafter, a hardcase US Ranger named Jack Cray is incarcerated in Colditz Castle, the Wehrmacht gasthaus for flight-minded POWs. After several false starts in the spring of 1945, bilingual Jack stages a spectacular escape from the Saxony stronghold and makes his violent way across a war-torn countryside toward Berlin. An alarmed Reich Security Service frees Otto Dietrich (a virtuoso detective unjustly imprisoned by the Gestapo) to track down the one-man wrecking crew before he can complete his unknown—but predictable—mission. Once in the bombed-out capital city, Jack (who blames himself for the death of his young wife in an auto accident) joins forces with resistance operative Katrin von Tornitz, the pretty and vengeance-minded widow of an Army officer executed for complicity in a plot to assassinate Hitler. At no small cost in angst and blood, the two manage to stay one step ahead of Dietrich, who comes to admire the hired gun's resilience and resourcefulness, while death-wish Jack ascertains that his target is holed up in an underground bunker. With help from a disaffected technician who'll do anything to gain the release of his only surviving son from the Soviets, Jack sabotages the subterranean bastion's ventilation system. In the hellish confusion that ensues, the intrepid hit man breaks in on a defenseless Hitler. Before he can make it back behind his own lines, however, Jack must reach a rapprochement with the dogged Dietrich and the aristocratic von Tornitz, both of whom remain true to the Fatherland—in their fashion. A slick period-piece in the estimable tradition of Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-80025-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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