A historic page-turner that promises to bring fans new and old to the table.

THE DEADLIEST FEVER

A MIRIAM BAT ISAAC MYSTERY IN ANCIENT ALEXANDRIA

Trop (The Deadliest Sport, 2017, etc.) lends depth and familiarity to an ancient world and adds modern thriller sensibilities in this latest historical mystery novel, the fourth in the series.

Miriam bat Isaac, an aspiring alchemist in first-century C.E. Alexandria, has had a complex life. Having dealt with the dangers of alchemical techniques themselves and people competing with or acting against the Jewish alchemists working on such research, she finds herself in the rare position of both being an expert in alchemical science and in unraveling the conspiracies and threats that beset her and those around her. So it’s all the more surprising when she’s faced with her most puzzling challenge yet—an attack on Alexandria’s Great Synagogue that leaves its Torah mantle damaged. That alone would be a mystery worth tackling, but when her alchemist colleague (and the longtime object of her affections) Judah repairs the mantle, he finds that none of the gems embedded in the sacred object were stolen, leaving the culprit’s motives all the more uncertain. When a missive warning of a veiled need for additional guards at the synagogue appears, Miriam’s concerns only deepen. As she investigates, she finds more and more doubt and confusion about this particularly twisted piece of intrigue, and it’s dark and dangerous enough that it could very well be her last. As in previous books, Trop’s prose is strong, with clean, natural dialogue and a particular flair for the kinetic details of action scenes and the dramatics of disguise and investigation. The complex cultural dynamics of Jewish people in this society are well-researched, a welcome facet of the series. What’s more, even new readers will find themselves caught up in the setting via effective description and a liberal application of culture- and setting-specific terms. Fans of the series may be interested to note that, while this book brings with it the tension and quick pacing of previous entries, it does feature fewer scenes of violence and action-fueled drama. Certainly this is unsurprising, because the previous book focused on Miriam’s brother, Binyamin, and his fellow gladiators, but it’s worth noting this installment’s shift to a greater focus on investigation, questions, and uncertainty.

A historic page-turner that promises to bring fans new and old to the table.

Pub Date: April 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62694-875-4

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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