Fluid prose enhances this light, enjoyable visit to the 1930s.

READ REVIEW

SHIRLEY TEMPLE IS MISSING

From the A Missy LeHand Mystery series

In an imaginative caper set in 1935, a dimwitted assistant consul for cultural affairs in Italy devises a plan to kidnap child superstar Shirley Temple.

Durham (Unforeseen Complications, 2017, etc.) and Smith (The Gatekeeper, 2016, etc.) join forces to meld their respective areas of interest—old-Hollywood-based mystery writing and the life of Marguerite Alice “Missy” LeHand, the private secretary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In this novel, Missy and her assistant, Grace Tully, are vacationing in California while the president is away on a fishing trip. They’ve arranged to tour the Twentieth Century Fox studios, where they meet the irrepressible Shirley. Missy, Grace, and Gertrude Temple, Shirley’s mother, decide that it would be fun to go on a trip together to San Francisco aboard the new Coast Daylight train. When Shirley learns that the forces of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini have invaded Ethiopia, she says, “Why doesn’t somebody tell Mussolini to stop?” Her comment winds up in Louella Parsons’s gossip column, inciting Il Duce’s fury, and he orders San Francisco–based Italian consul Cosimo Palladino to respond to the insult. Fausto Trevisano, a wannabe movie star, is working at the consulate, and he assures Palladino that he has a solution. Fausto contacts Shirley’s acquaintance, struggling stuntman Andy Archie, and they arrange to kidnap the child from the train. Joan Roswell, who’s trying to make it as a Hollywood reporter, unwittingly becomes an accessory to the kidnapping. This smoothly flowing story is set against a serious backdrop—the lead-up to World War II and Roosevelt’s attempt to keep Mussolini from aligning with German chancellor Adolf Hitler—but the mystery plot is mostly a lark. It’s ably carried by a substantial ensemble cast, which includes an important performance by film director Darryl F. Zanuck and a few cameo appearances by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. It’s also loaded with insider-y moviemaking details, and it even offers a few peeks into the personal side of the White House. The scenes aboard the Coast Daylight will make readers yearn for the days of pre-jet travel, and quirky bad guys add a surprise twist to the well-paced mayhem.

Fluid prose enhances this light, enjoyable visit to the 1930s.

Pub Date: March 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-983873-90-4

Page Count: 390

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more