Although the pace is fast and frenetic, the characters are little more than polemic place-markers, and the language is...



TV writer turned novelist Pasha offers this miniseries-ready recapitulation of the Third Crusade.

Saladin, a charismatic sultan of humble Kurdish origins, succeeds in the nearly impossible task of driving out the Christian Franks from Jerusalem, where they have ruled for decades after conquering the city with their trademark ferocious barbarity. Saladin manages to beat the Christians back to a small coastal encampment, where he keeps them contained. Back in England, young king Richard the Lionheart vows to retake Jerusalem for the Cross and for his own self-aggrandizement. Richard, a ruthless warrior still battling rumors that he is homosexual, is a virulent anti-Semite and shows no compunction about slaughtering women and children in the course of his campaigns. Maimonides, rabbi, physician and renowned author of religious and philosophical treatises, serves as Saladin’s doctor and most trusted confidant. Maimonides’ niece Miriam has been his ward ever since she narrowly escaped death at the hands of brutal Frankish marquis Conrad, who, years before, brutally raped and killed her mother before her eyes. Conrad is now the leader of the small group of Christians encamped on the coast—once Richard helps him retake Jerusalem, he expects to rule that city. Lovely, green-eyed and erudite, Miriam captivates Saladin, and the infatuation is mutual. After their affair is exposed, Miriam, on her way to sanctuary in Egypt, is captured by the Franks. Stung by Richard’s contempt, Conrad defects to Saladin. Maimonides is alarmed when he recognizes, in Conrad’s possession, an amulet which belonged to Rachel, Miriam’s mother. Realizing that Conrad murdered Rachel, Maimonides hatches a plot to kill the marquis and implicate Richard in his death. Meanwhile, Miriam unwillingly becomes Richard’s mistress in order to spy for the Saracens. Ultimately the love that both Richard and Saladin have for Miriam will force them into an unlikely decision about the fate of Jerusalem.

Although the pace is fast and frenetic, the characters are little more than polemic place-markers, and the language is jarringly clichéd and anachronistic.

Pub Date: June 22, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7995-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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


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

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