A suspenseful and moving work of historical fiction set in a divided Germany.

READ REVIEW

FOR THOSE WHO DARE

A novel traces how the construction of the Berlin Wall affects a group of residents.

In the early hours of Aug. 13, 1961, Kirstin Beck leaves her house in East Berlin with the intention of seeking refuge in the city’s Western sector. Doing so means leaving behind her husband, an older college professor with strong socialist convictions, but opens the door to new freedoms away from the oppressive Communist government. Yet as she approaches the border, she finds it milling with guards and workmen. In the following days, as barbed wire blockades are being constructed, it becomes clear that the perimeter is closing for good. Like many others, Kirstin has family in West Berlin that she may never see again, including her aging grandmother. Her only remaining option is to seek help from an acquaintance on the other side of the wall, an American writer named Tony Marino. With his foreign passport, Tony is one of the few able to cross the border at will. After a series of clandestine meetings, he finds himself committed to helping Kirstin and several of her neighbors. Among their number are Dieter Katz, a student undergoing rehabilitation for an attempted escape, and Jacob Werner, a former Nazi doctor under government scrutiny. As the operation grows, the danger mounts, and the government seems to always be a step ahead of their plans. With Stasi (the East German secret police) informants hidden among friends and family, it is impossible to know for sure who can be trusted. Miller includes many well-researched historical details, crafting a rich and descriptive setting. While the harrowing story focuses mainly on Kirstin and Tony, the point of view often shifts to members of the supporting cast. This allows for insight into the minds of many characters without ever revealing their true motives. The novel’s romantic elements are well executed, introducing an endearing subplot and further increasing the emotional stakes. The writing is full of tension and excitement, with compelling and realistically rendered characters. Although the ending is perhaps too neat, the buildup is riveting.

A suspenseful and moving work of historical fiction set in a divided Germany.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-67386-263-8

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

Did you like this book?

To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

SUMMER OF '69

Nantucket, not Woodstock, is the main attraction in Hilderbrand’s (Winter in Paradise, 2018, etc.) bittersweet nostalgia piece about the summer of 1969.

As is typical with Hilderbrand’s fiction, several members of a family have their says. Here, that family is the “stitched together” Foley-Levin clan, ruled over by the appropriately named matriarch, Exalta, aka Nonny, mother of Kate Levin. Exalta’s Nantucket house, All’s Fair, also appropriately named, is the main setting. Kate’s three older children, Blair, 24, Kirby, 20, and Tiger, 19, are products of her first marriage, to Wilder Foley, a war veteran, who shot himself. Second husband David Levin is the father of Jessie, who’s just turned 13. Tiger has been drafted and sends dispatches to Jessie from Vietnam. Kirby has been arrested twice while protesting the war in Boston. (Don’t tell Nonny!) Blair is married and pregnant; her MIT astrophysicist husband, Angus, is depressive, controlling, and deceitful—the unmelodramatic way Angus’ faults sneak up on both Blair and the reader is only one example of Hilderbrand’s firm grasp on real life. Many plot elements are specific to the year. Kirby is further rebelling by forgoing Nantucket for rival island Martha’s Vineyard—and a hotel job close to Chappaquiddick. Angus will be working at Mission Control for the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Kirby has difficult romantic encounters, first with her arresting officer, then with a black Harvard student whose mother has another reason, besides Kirby’s whiteness, to distrust her. Pick, grandson of Exalta’s caretaker, is planning to search for his hippie mother at Woodstock. Other complications seem very up-to-date: a country club tennis coach is a predator and pedophile. Anti-Semitism lurks beneath the club’s genteel veneer. Kate’s drinking has accelerated since Tiger’s deployment overseas. Exalta’s toughness is seemingly untempered by grandmotherly love. As always, Hilderbrand’s characters are utterly convincing and immediately draw us into their problems, from petty to grave. Sometimes, her densely packed tales seem to unravel toward the end. This is not one of those times.

To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-42001-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more