Big trouble in Talon Town, the name given by the archaeologically correct Gears (People of the Lightning, 1995, etc.) to a political and cultural center of the 12th-century Anasazi people in what is now New Mexico. Here, the dire careers of two ruthless rulers spawn murders and betrayals while mystery burgeons and romance flutters. This pounding-moccasin's saga is similar to the Gears' other books, in which the nobly inclined and spiritually attuned escape from evil heavies in high places. In this latest, Crow Beard, the absolute ruler of the Straight People (the Anasazi), is dying. Many years before, he had ordered the murder of a young woman of the Mogollon people, taken in a raid and enslaved. The court's holy man, the ``Sunwatcher'' Sternlight, is forced to do the deed. What Crow Beard doesn't know is that Sternlight allowed the girl's baby to live, with (eventually) important ramifications for all. The baby had been given to a couple of ``Made People'' (as opposed to the elite ``First People''), who raised her with their son. A horrible death awaits the boy and his father, while the girl, Cornsilk, now 14, flees for her life. She will eventually team up with Poor Singer, who's being whomped into spiritual shape as a disciple of a powerful shaman. Finally, all principals will cluster in Talon Town, where Crow Beard's nasty son Snake Head is plotting the death of his mother Night Sun, whom he suspects of bearing a child by the Warrior Chief Ironwood (he's on target there) and planning a secret alliance with the chief of the Mogolons, whose daughter was Sternlight's victim. Again, the Gears' people are anything but silent as they mull over their multiplying predicaments with expository earnestness. Still, the grue-soaked action, mystic journeying, and sentiment churn on efficiently against some rather nice scenery. More of the same, but with respectable anthropological underpinnings. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-85853-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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