A lovely book about books—and freedom.



An understated, lyrical story of reading and resistance over the tumultuous generations.

“For centuries the sun has been rising over the terraces of Algiers, and for centuries, on those terraces, we have been killing each other.” So writes Adimi in the first of her novels to be translated into English, a story that unfolds over decades, beginning in 1936, when a young pied noir named Edmond Charlot (who was a real person) buys a tiny bookstore in Algiers. He calls it Les Vraies Richesses, meaning something like “the true wealth.” In time he starts a publishing house, discovering a young Albert Camus. World War II follows, and Charlot battles censorship and paper shortages; then comes the Algerian War, and though readers continue to come to his store, no one has any money: “When I can, I slip them something I love and say, ‘Take it: fix me up later,’ ” Charlot records in his journal. Adimi recounts Charlot’s inspiring passion for books and ideas through his own voice and those of others, including one of his converts, a now old man named Abdallah, who tends to the store long after the death of its founder. But the Algerian authorities have no use for such secular spaces; as a journalist notes, “The government is sacrificing culture to build mosques on every street corner!” A young man named Ryad, an engineering student, is sent to clean out and refurbish the space. “Destroying a bookstore, you call that work?” Abdallah, who wears a shroud around his shoulders so that “the day God calls me, they’ll be able to bury me straight away,” asks the dutiful young man. The books he is sent to trash eventually enrapture Ryad, of course. Populated by the ordinary citizens of Algiers and such figures from French literary history as Robert Aron and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Adimi’s gently spun story takes an ominous turn as it nears its end, when the secret police turn up with increasing frequency, their “mustaches, sunglasses, dark suits” the uniform of the enemies of literature.

A lovely book about books—and freedom.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2815-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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