An enticing genre mashup. Horror, SF, and fantasy readers alike will find something to love and someone to root for.

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CREATURES OF CHARM AND HUNGER

Near the end of World War II, two friends and aspiring diabolists (“We’re not witches, Jane”) get in each other’s way as they pursue forbidden magic for different ends—one to stop the Nazis, even if it costs her life, and the other to save herself, even if it puts the world at risk.

Perfectionist Jane Blackwood and people-pleaser Miriam Cantor, the Blackwoods’ ward and a German Jew, are more sisters than friends. When Aunt Edith, an allied diabolist spy, arrives in their sleepy English village to administer The Test, their lives and their relationships are changed forever. Miriam passes and can take the next step to becoming a full-fledged diabolist, but she also learns the diabolist society suspects her parents, still in Germany, of joining the Nazis. Meanwhile, Jane must hide that she failed her Test or risk life as a society servant…or worse. Isolated by their fears and plagued by building resentments, each girl delves into forbidden magic as a last resort. Miriam works to clear her parents, which literally endangers her soul, and uncovers a Nazi diabolist’s plot that could win them the war. Jane, who can no longer make a pact with a more benevolent demon to gain full diabolist power, uses a dark and dangerous way to get it. When she unknowingly allows a sinister demon access to the world, and her mother’s soul, Miriam’s and Jane’s magical work collide. Suddenly the Nazis are the least of their worries. They must put aside their jealousies, hurt, and secrets to save the world and each other—but being a true diabolist always requires a sacrifice. This companion to Tanzer’s other two Creatures novels (Creatures of Want and Ruin, 2018, etc.) dives deeper into the diabolists’ world and their magical sciences. Familiarity with the previous books is unnecessary to enjoy this well-written, fun, and thoughtful tale of evil Nazi plots, body-snatching behind enemy lines, magical libraries, complicated parental relationships, deep-seated prejudices, and suspicious felines.

An enticing genre mashup. Horror, SF, and fantasy readers alike will find something to love and someone to root for.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-06521-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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