ST. PETERSBURG

MADNESS, MURDER, AND ART ON THE BANKS OF THE NEVA

Readers with an interest in Russian cultural history and urban history will find much of value in these pages.

“Peter’s dream capital was majestic but crumbling, even as it was built”: an expansive portrait of the calamity-laden urban center of European Russia.

St. Petersburg—the city that would be known as Leningrad throughout most of the 20th century and then revert to its old name—is a city built on swampy ground. As Dostoevsky noted, it is “damp, foggy, rainy, snowy, fraught with agues, catarrhs, colds, quinsies [and] fevers of every possible species and variety.” It has been the site of devastation and suffering and has spawned monstrous ideas and monstrous people, but it has endured, if improbably, and has even attained a certain majesty. Paris-based biographer Miles (The Dangerous Otto Katz: The Many Lives of a Soviet Spy, 2010, etc.) likens the city to New York in being a gathering place of strangers, foreigners, and people who wouldn’t easily fit anywhere else. The author also uncovers a few ironies, such as the fact that some of the city’s most impressive monuments were built by a French veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, who “submitted twenty-four different proposals in every known style, so it is hardly surprising that he won the commission.” Chronicling shifting cultural styles, including Czar Alexander III’s interest in making a more Russian city of his Russian capital, closing the popular Italian opera in the bargain, Miles turns in some familiar tales as well, populated by stock characters like Rasputin and Lenin. But perhaps not so familiar after all, since, as the author writes, the modern St. Petersburg is the city of the young, people for whom “the gulag is a distant epoch” and who are at home in the globalized era even if the Putin regime keeps them from realizing their potential. The author’s account is vigorous and readable but a touch long; one wonders at what the economical Jan Morris might have done had she logged a few seasons in Russia.

Readers with an interest in Russian cultural history and urban history will find much of value in these pages.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-676-7

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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