An enjoyable, if uncomplicated, beach read about a novice journalist during wartime.

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LOVE AND SABOTAGE

In this novel, a young woman scores a job as a reporter for a Westchester County newspaper in the waning days of World War II.

The war in Europe has ended, but fighting on the Pacific front is in full force. That is where Marty Gregg’s fiance, Eddy, is stationed, and she hasn’t received a letter from him in several weeks. Meanwhile, with all the young men off to war, Marty has been hired as a reporter for the Port Chester Sentinel. Worrying about Eddy, she finally dozes off to sleep. Suddenly, she is jolted out of bed by the piercing wail of a siren. The Rye, New York, shipyard, which has been producing landing barges for the war effort, is ablaze. With the enthusiasm of a fledgling Lois Lane, Marty rushes to the shipyard. Unfortunately, Ben Bronson, a newbie reporter just out of high school assigned to the Greenwich, Connecticut, desk, has already been to the scene even though Rye is Marty’s territory. Now she must convince her editor, Phil Barrett, to assign her the story. Phil is already disgruntled over having to hire women to fill jobs usually held by men. Over dinner at an Italian restaurant, Phil agrees to let her run with the write-up, but the playboy bachelor has a more nefarious interest in Marty. This is the first adult novel by Tolles, a children’s book author. Tolles’ prose has a vintage charm reminiscent of the era, but it lacks the sophistication of adult fiction. Marty narrates the tale with an innocence and simplicity that are quaint by today’s standards. Despite Phil’s numerous sexual advances, she is slow to fully grasp his intentions. Describing a dinner with him, she says: “We didn’t get off to a good start. ‘Hi, Marty,’ he said when we met and he hugged me right up close. Oh, not good.” Still, the author skillfully evokes the atmospherics of America’s homefront wartime mentality. She introduces a bit of humor when Marty dresses as a man to access the Plains Club for an FBI briefing on the shipyard explosion. And the hunt for the arsonist keeps the narrative engaging.

An enjoyable, if uncomplicated, beach read about a novice journalist during wartime.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62815-915-8

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Speaking Volumes

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Follett's fans will enjoy this jaunt through the days before England was merry.

THE EVENING AND THE MORNING

Murder, sex, and unholy ambition threaten to overwhelm the glimmers of light in Dark Ages England in this prequel to The Pillars of the Earth (1989).

A Viking raid in 997 C.E. kills Edgar’s one true love, Sungifu, and he vows never to love another—but come on, he’s only 18. The young man is a talented builder who has strong personal values. Weighing the consequences of helping a slave escape, he muses, “Perhaps there were principles more important than the rule of law.” Meanwhile, Lady Ragna is a beautiful French noblewoman who comes to Shiring, marries the local ealdorman, Wilwulf, and starts a family. Much of the action takes place in Dreng’s Ferry, a tiny hamlet with “half a dozen houses and a church.” Dreng is a venal, vicious ferryman who hurls his slave’s newborn child into a river and is only one of several characters whose death readers will eagerly root for. Bishop Wynstan lusts to become an archbishop and will crush anyone who stands in his way. He clashes with Ragna as she announces she is lord of the Vale of Outhen. “Wait!” he says to the people, “Are you going to be ruled by a mere woman?” (Wynstan’s fate is delicious.) Aldred is a kindly monk who harbors an unrequited love for Edgar, who in turn loves Ragna but knows it’s hopeless: Although widowed after Wilwulf’s sudden death, she remains above Edgar’s station. There are plenty of other colorful people in this richly told, complex story: slaves, rapists, fornicators, nobles, murderers, kind and decent people, and men of the cloth with “Whore’s Leprosy.” The plot at its core, though, is boy meets girl—OK, Edgar meets Ragna—and a whole lot of trouble stands in the way of their happiness. They are attractive and sympathetic protagonists, and more’s the pity they’re stuck in the 11th century. Readers may guess the ending well before Page 900—yes, it’s that long—but Follett is a powerful storyteller who will hold their attention anyway.

Follett's fans will enjoy this jaunt through the days before England was merry.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-595498-9

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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