Vivienne’s measured, astringent voice is riveting and her moral ambiguity deliciously disturbing until the disappointingly...

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THE SOLDIER'S WIFE

Leroy, whose fiction specializes in prickly mothers, turns from the paranormal (Yes, My Darling Daughter, 2009, etc.) to the historical in this story of torn loyalties during the World War II German occupation of the isle of Guernsey.

Originally from London, Vivienne has lived in Guernsey since she married Eugene, with whom she has had a loveless marriage. In 1940, with Eugene away in the military, Vivienne lives with her increasingly senile mother-in-law and her daughters, 4-year-old Millie and 14-year-old Blanche. Beset by indecision, Vivienne misses the chance to leave Guernsey with the girls before the Germans take over the island. Her anxiety, already high after German bombing kills a friend’s husband, rises when German soldiers move into the vacant house next door. But she also finds herself attracted to one of the captains, Gunther Lehmann, who offers her small favors like chocolate candy and a ride home in the rain. She rather quickly succumbs, and soon he is sneaking into her arms every night at 10 sharp. Vivienne compartmentalizes her passion for Gunther, her protectiveness toward her girls and her patriotic anger at the Germans. The lovers discuss their pasts but avoid the reality of their situation; it helps that Gunther evinces no respect for Hitler. When gossip spreads about her fraternizing, Vivienne skillfully defuses suspicion. Harder to ignore is the information she discovers about inhumane labor camps on Guernsey. By the third winter, the Germans begin to deport and incarcerate non-natives like Vivienne, but Gunther keeps her safe. Meanwhile, through Millie, Vivienne meets and helps an escapee from the labor camp. She is preparing the escapee’s breakfast one morning when Gunther shows up unexpectedly. She is not sure how much he knows or suspects, but shortly afterward, the escapee is tracked down and shot. Assuming he turned her in, she breaks with Gunther, only to learn the truth too late, after he has been transferred to the Eastern front.

Vivienne’s measured, astringent voice is riveting and her moral ambiguity deliciously disturbing until the disappointingly maudlin ending.

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4013-4170-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Voice/Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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