An engaging but condensed fictional account of Germans in Eastern Europe.

A GERMAN IN A FOREIGN LAND

A generational family novel tells the story of one line of German settlers in Hungary over two centuries.

People know about the Germans who went west to settle in the Americas, but as Heck reminds readers in this tale, some of them actually went east. After the Banat region of Hungary comes under the control of the Austrian Empire, Empress Maria Theresa decides to sow the lands with German Catholics. Stefan and Sophie Fritz from the Black Forest answer the call for colonists, though it means they have to disguise their Lutheran faith. Stefan believes that the promise of good land abroad beats the guarantee of poverty, despite the loss of home. “They say you are putting down new roots,” writes Stefan as he leaves Germany in 1763. “But do the roots ever take hold, and are you nourished by the new growth? Or are they weeds, growing but producing nothing?” The Fritzes toil beside the other colonists, allowing their son Johann to become a skilled violinist who associates with the likes of Haydn and Beethoven. Other descendants of Stefan and Sophie participate in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 and both world wars. The fate of the family is ultimately tied to the destiny of the German community of Eastern Europe. In this series opener, Heck writes in a detailed prose that reveals what must have been a great deal of research: “Because women in the Banat were used to hard work in the fields, they were strong and mostly healthy. Some women went into labor in the fields, then cleaned up the best they could, wrapped the babies to their bodies, breastfed them, and went back to work that day or the next.” The format is epistolary, and because of this (and its compressed time frame—almost 200 years in just over 200 pages), there is a rushed, overly expositional quality to both the dialogue and the narration. As a result, the story is not quite as immersive as it might have been. That said, the book is noteworthy for its dramatization of a vanished chapter in German and European history.

An engaging but condensed fictional account of Germans in Eastern Europe.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79606-643-2

Page Count: 230

Publisher: XlibrisUS

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 61

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

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

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more