A romance with a clichéd premise but some political and emotional depth.

Stumble Stones

A NOVEL

A TV writer and a banker try to return priceless diamonds to their rightful owners while neo-Nazi dealers in stolen merchandise pursue them in this romantic suspense novel.

Hallelujah Weiss is facing a bitter divorce—just like Pollyanna “Polly” Winthrop, the protagonist on the soap opera As the Planet Spins, for which she writes. Determined to spend as much of her philandering husband’s money as possible before he marries his secretary, Hallelujah boards a flight to Florence, Italy. Her friendly, attractive seatmate, Alexander Stone, hands her a package and then disappears for the rest of the flight. They finally meet again in Rome, and Hallelujah soon finds herself following the hedge fund trader to Switzerland to uncover the mystery of the diamonds in the package he gave her. It turns out that Alexander had discovered them hidden in his newly purchased home in Berlin. On his property, an unknown benefactor had placed plaques, or “stumble stones,” commemorating the original owners, the Hirschfeld family, who were sent to Auschwitz in 1943. Unbeknownst to Hallelujah and Alexander, a Hirschfeld survivor had a son with the SS officer who arrested the family; now, that son is a Nazi sympathizer who’s after the diamonds. Along the way, the story intersperses snippets of Hallelujah’s TV scripts, which she continues to write. As she’s pursued by modern-day dealers in art and jewels stolen from Holocaust victims, she tries to act as the fearless, vivacious Pollyanna would while also resisting falling in love with Alexander. One may simply count the romance-genre tropes—travel, a handsome stranger, a mystery package, an innocent embroiled in international intrigue, and a writer living vicariously through more colorful characters—and be able to predict most of this story. The dialogue and exposition are repetitive, as if scenes are following commercial breaks, and the Pollyanna segues further slow the pace. However, Baron (Sixth Sense, 2015, etc.) does make a few poignant points about how the international community looked away as lower-echelon Nazis remained free to sell treasures stolen from Jewish families and about how a Holocaust survivor’s appetite for vengeance has unintended consequences for the next generation.

A romance with a clichéd premise but some political and emotional depth.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5092-0911-8

Page Count: 220

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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