Devilishly entertaining fantasy fare for people of faith, from the creator of the Dorsetville series of miraculous tales (On...

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THE HAUNTED RECTORY

Is Lucifer lurking in L.L. Bean land? In this nifty metaphysical thriller, a hunky exorcist and a passel of ghostbusting gal pals combat Dark Forces invading a picture-perfect Yankee hamlet.

St. Francis Xavier parish is losing pastors. Over the years, three freaked priests have fled, having beheld Sights Too Terrible To Speak Of. Enter redoubtable replacement Father Rich Melos, who’s both fearless of Satan and Thornbirds-cute. Jane Edwell, plucky proprietor of the Sip and Sit Café, joins Melos in his bid to blast open the malefic mystery. A 40ish gamine with a jogger’s hardbody, she’s psychically gifted, her sixth sense an uncanny after-effect of her surviving a car crash that killed her family when she was a teen. Jane and the Church Hookers—soccer moms who meet to handcraft folk-art rugs—become demon detectives while sparing time to flirt harmlessly with the padre and exchange benign gossip with other un-desperate housewives. Melos, driven by the memory of his first exorcism of a 12-year-old gorgeous Italian bambina (one of the novel’s truly terrifying scenes), gets down to soul-saving business while chastely boyfriending the women. A delightful storyteller with an eye for quotidian detail (the Hookers shop at T.J. Maxx and adore Oprah), Valentine turns in a smarter Touched by an Angel. It’s the kind of determinedly edifying fiction that recalls G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown whodunits or Giovanni Guareschi’s Don Camillo tales, sweet fluff once beloved of pre-Vatican II Catholics. Valentine’s heroic priest-protagonist is a nice novelty and her heroines are engagingly down-to-earth.

Devilishly entertaining fantasy fare for people of faith, from the creator of the Dorsetville series of miraculous tales (On a Wing and a Prayer, 2005, etc.).

Pub Date: June 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-51202-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Image/Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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