Vibrant imagery and an entertaining plot ending with a most unexpected twist.

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THE DEADLIEST THIEF

An alchemist and first-century amateur sleuth returns and must rescue a kidnapped friend in the fifth installment in Trop’s (The Deadliest Fever, 2018, etc.) historical mystery series.

It is Feb. 26, 61 C.E., and Miriam bat Isaac bolts from her chair to answer the banging on the door of her town house in Roman-occupied Alexandria, Egypt. She sees her closest friend, Phoebe, badly beaten; within moments she crumbles to the marble floor. She dies in Miriam’s arms, mumbling the word “document.” Distraught, Miriam discovers her friend brought a tube containing a sealed, rolled parchment. With shock she learns the dead woman isn’t Phoebe but rather Phoebe’s hitherto unknown twin sister, Leda, who was raised in Crete. Leda was married to a brute, Pytheus, one of three cohorts who last year stole the jewels from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus on the island of Crete. According to Leda’s sworn statement, Pytheus intends to have Miriam killed. The sleuth’s momentary relief that it is not her best friend who has just expired vanishes when Phoebe’s husband, Bion, arrives and tells her that his wife is missing—kidnapped, it turns out. A few days later, Miriam encounters the dwarf Nathaniel ben Ruben, a friend from earlier in the series. It seems he, too, is being stalked by someone who sounds very much like Pytheus. Once again, Trop pulls readers into the sounds, smells, colors, and foods of ancient Alexandria. The multifaceted mystery is intriguing, with engaging characters, although they will seem less fully developed to new readers than to established fans. But the real strength of Trop’s atmospherically rich book lies in her ability to transport her audience to a distant time and place, seamlessly sprinkling her prose with period-appropriate Greek and Latin terminology and offering descriptive details that bespeak solid research: One scene has a table laden with “trays of stuffed olives, boiled eggs, and candied almonds; a platter of the cook’s specialty, thin slices of grilled lamb in a fragrant mint sauce; and a salad of dandelion greens, berries, and melon balls.”

Vibrant imagery and an entertaining plot ending with a most unexpected twist.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64437-201-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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