A satisfying Nazi/Cold War potboiler by the author of The Original Sin (1992) that turns on the heat at the start and doesn't let up until the kettle shrieks 592 pages later. World War II has just ended. A beautiful peasant girl in Italy dies giving birth to an illegitimate daughter, Catarina, while a man named Joseph tries to convince the Russians in charge of a Displaced Persons camp in Latvia that he is an American and should be sent home. Meanwhile, David, a seductive but penniless Englishman home from the war, reels in Evelyn, a woman with the money and connections he's been waiting for. Then we're back to the future in 1992. A glamorous Vail resort director named Kate (the grown-up Catarina, as it turns out) is engrossed in researching an American POW who disappeared into the Soviet gulag after the war- -while a shadowy figure sets a sadistic killer on Kate's trail. The killer catches up to her, ransacking her house and leaving her in a coma. Kate's daughter Anna, an investigative reporter, arrives to coax her mother back to consciousness, and stays to find out who her mother was looking for and who tried to have her killed. It all leads back to Joseph and David, as the story continues to unfold in both the past (with engrossing descriptions of wartime and postwar hardship and romance) and the present (with lots of formulaic romance and heavy-handed villainy). Anna switches with dizzying speed from intrigue to interior decorating as she puzzles out her mother's mystery with the help of Philip Westward, a suave millionaire she doesn't quite trust but falls madly in love with. It's all a bit much at times, as Anna remarks to her still- unconscious mother: ``Life's a bitch. You in here, Evelyn dying all alone in England. And I'm in love with the most wonderful man I've ever known. And I'm so happy, so sad, so confused.'' But she rallies and, with Philip's help, manages to survive an over-the-top encounter with an aging Nazi and solve her mother's mystery—and Philip's—both of which have to do with false identities and missing fathers. Despite the usual genre cliches and an occasional jarring note of sexism, this is a well-paced and engaging read.

Pub Date: March 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-553-08988-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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