THE JOURNAL by Linda Lee Keenan

THE JOURNAL

A Novel of the Second World War
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A clairvoyant joins a secret investigative team that seeks to reunite families torn asunder by World War II in Keenan’s (With Love From Poland, 2015) historical thriller.

Julia Hamilton is a successful interior designer in Manhattan who spends her free time researching her late great-uncle Per Lundgren, a Swedish diplomat who was in charge of delicate negotiations with Germany in the 1940s. Julia possesses “other worldly abilities” that allow her to communicate with Per, who vividly relates to her his work for an underground organization called Blue Tango, which infiltrated the Nazi ranks. Per tells her about his adventures as a member of that group, and of the romance he had with a beautiful woman named Raya Simone, which she writes down in a journal. Through her friend Seth Schmidt, Julia meets Thor Bjorn Jr., the son of a powerful Swedish shipping tycoon. It turns out the younger Thor heads a clandestine team that tracks down children whom the Nazis sold to other families, and seeks to reunite them with their biological kin. Thor’s late father was engaged in the same mission, and also worked with Per in the past. Julia shuts down her design business, joins Thor’s secret organization, and travels abroad on dangerous adventures, confronting present-day Nazis. Keenan adds a romantic twist to the drama with Julia’s ex-boyfriend, Tom Pierson, who also works for Thor and openly pines to recapture her attentions, despite her attachment to another. The author shows off her fertile imagination as she conjures a complex, unpredictable tale. Her knowledge of Europe during the war years is notable, though not surprising, as she holds a master’s degree in international history from Western Connecticut State University. However, despite its imagination, the plot is miles from plausible, even by the standards of novelistic fantasy, and the writing has an anesthetized, slow-paced feel; for example, when Julia presses Per for more details about his life, he responds: “Whoa there, Missy, you will find out in due time. Allow my story to unfold. Meanwhile, don’t you have a life to attend to in Manhattan?” The fabulist elements of the tale also seem incongruent with the grim historical truths of Nazi atrocities, and its use of dramatic devices to spice up the bleak enormity of WWII seems gratuitous.

An impressively inventive story, but one that lacks believability or gravity.

Pub Date: Dec. 13th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-692-46475-5
Page count: 268pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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