Connie, wife of Nigel Hadley, owner of a thriving rubber plantation in Malaya, is on her way to the country club when she...

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THE WHITE PEARL

An English matron flees the Japanese with her family, in Furnivall’s ripping World War II yarn.

Connie, wife of Nigel Hadley, owner of a thriving rubber plantation in Malaya, is on her way to the country club when she loses control of her car and rams into a native market stand. A Malay woman, Sai-Ru, is fatally injured, and as her daughter Maya and Connie kneel beside her, Sai-Ru curses “the white lady.” This only adds to Connie’s burden of guilt—her recent affair with a Japanese man ended with his suicide. Nigel, a stereotypical stiff-upper-lipped Englishman, has rebuffed his wife’s affections for years. When Connie tries to make amends by employing Maya and her twin brother Razak, Nigel warms to Razak but banishes Maya, whom he’s seen working in a seedy nightclub. When the Japanese invade Malaya the English colonials are woefully unprepared, and British defenses quickly crumble. The Hadleys flee on their yacht, The White Pearl, with fellow refugees, including their son Teddy, wounded Brit flyboy Johnnie, stowaways Maya and Razak, friends Henry and Harriet Court, and, later, Madoc and Kitty, owners of a gambling den destroyed when a deal with the Japanese went south. Skippering is mysterious seafarer Mr. Fitzpayne, who, when safe harbor in Singapore is impossible, leads the group on a search for a small island on which to wait out the war. Although outwardly grateful to Connie, Maya seeks ways to carry out Sai-Ru’s curse: Harriet ingests poison meant for Connie, and an attempt to drown the family dog will alter everyone's fate. Madoc plots to shanghai The White Pearl, 7-year-old Teddy grows up speedily and Nigel is exhibiting an unhealthy fondness for handsome Razak, which, Connie realizes, explains his coldness toward her. However, even as she recognizes his dangerous depths, Connie cannot deny her attraction to Fitzpayne. 

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-24100-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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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.

ONE GOOD DEED

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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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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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