A satisfying historical whodunit, redolent with Cold War paranoia and tragedy.




Convincing argument that the 1968 sinking of the nuclear submarine USS Scorpion, long considered an accident, was the result of a Soviet attack.

Although not the first to level this accusation, Navy veteran and nuclear engineer Sewell and Tom Clancy stand-in Preisler (Tom Clancy’s Power Plays #1, 2004, etc.) make a compelling case, buttressed by research in Soviet archives and interviews with retired officers. Espionage plays a central role in the Scorpion disaster, thanks to traitorous John Walker. The authors recount the oft-told but still mind-boggling story of this junior officer at submarine communications headquarters who sold secrets to the USSR. (He would not be suspected for nearly two decades, until an angry ex-wife informed on him.) Soon after Walker enabled the Soviets to decipher coded American submarine communications, a Soviet missile sub on a still-unknown mission near Hawaii sank with all hands in February 1968. Two weeks later, a spy reported that a damaged U.S. submarine had arrived in Japan. Soviet files reveal and interviews confirm that high Soviet officials believed it had deliberately sunk their vessel, perhaps by ramming. In revenge, they torpedoed the Scorpion on May 27, killing 99 men. Blaming the Soviets would have exacerbated the Cold War, so the Navy’s official inquiry quickly dismissed that idea and the Navy spent its time investigating theories involving complex mechanical failures. The authors deliver an engrossing overview of American and Soviet submarine operations, including an unnerving number of encounters that could have ended in shooting. They provide capsule biographies of the Scorpion’s captain and many of its crew, their families and their friends. Serious readers may skim the fictional recreation of the sinking, but few will be able to resist the juicy details offered about this half-forgotten disaster and its aftermath, including the boasting of old Soviet admirals that they would have won World War III because they knew every move the U.S. Navy made.

A satisfying historical whodunit, redolent with Cold War paranoia and tragedy.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9798-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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