An atmospheric confection that will thrill YA readers.


Gregory’s (My Darlin' Clementine, 2009, etc.) latest YA thriller features a young seamstress from Denmark who encounters a dangerous stranger on her journey to early 1900s America.

Fifteen-year-old Rikke Svendsen is down on her luck. Unfairly ousted from her comfortable position as seamstress to the queen of Denmark and then banished from the country, she makes her way to New York aboard a passenger ship. She hopes to reunite with family members in Racine, Wis. As an unaccompanied young woman, however, she needs sponsorship in order to successfully pass through the doors of Ellis Island. The family she connects with seems amiable—until the father makes unwanted advances on Rikke. Spurned, he becomes more and more obsessed with her, until she breaks away by cleverly eluding him and his family at the immigration station. She slowly settles into a life as a seamstress in New York’s Lower East Side, saving money for the train fare to Racine. Through letters from friends and family there, she learns that a mysterious man has arrived and has been asking about her. When inexplicable “accidents” lead to injuries and even the deaths of her loved ones, Rikke realizes the man from the boat is determined to find her, and he’ll harm anyone in his way. Rikke and her New York friends devise a cunning plan to lure him to New York—and justice. Gregory achieves a realistic, rich atmosphere with insightful details about the immigration process and New York’s tenements in the early 1900s. Rikke is a resourceful, intelligent protagonist, but she exhibits too few character flaws to be truly convincing. She displays a relatively small degree of the fear and excitement someone in her position must have felt, and readers may also be distanced by her rather quiet emotions, especially in relation to her suitor, Viggo. The story moves at a satisfyingly rapid, suspenseful pace, although the too-tidy denouement is a bit of a letdown. Upon finishing the book, readers will have enjoyed Rikke’s company, but they may also wish she’d left more of an impression.

An atmospheric confection that will thrill YA readers.

Pub Date: May 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1477434826

Page Count: 152

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2012

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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