Trees of the world and dauntless readers, take note: The author gives warning on the last page that “this story is far from...



Dangerous? Only if you drop this endless sequel (No Angel, 2003) on your foot.

Meandering tale of privileged twins, penned in typically effulgent style, spanning several decades and a continent or two. Venetia and Adele Lytton, spoiled darlings of the Lytton family of publishing fame, prove to be among the most popular, charming, witty, and irresistible debutantes of the year 1928: not only are they pretty, they are unarguably pretty (a much overused word in Vincenzi’s lexicon, along with extremely, hugely, desperately, terribly, extraordinarily, hideously, dreadfully, and their poor little relation, very.) The twins pooh-pooh the ineffectual scolding of their concerned mummy, Celia, who pretends to disapprove of their modern manners—she’s scandalized when Venetia powders her perfect nose at the table! Though her daughters seem to be wasting their excellent education, Celia is pleased by their social success, perhaps because they are no match for her. “The beautiful, brilliant Lady Celia Lytton moved among the great literary figures of her day . . . .” But doesn’t she have a dark secret or something? Well, yes—but Vincenzi doesn’t get around to it until hundreds of pages later. The twins must grow up in an uncertain world, fall in and out of love with toffee-nosed prigs, learn that life isn’t always fair, explore New York when Lytton opens a branch there, etc. In the meantime, that silly Hitler—such a common man—is making stiff-armed salutes and rabble-rousing in Europe. And if someone doesn’t put a stop to his fascist manias, what will happen to all the dear little cuckoo clocks? Will the twins have to give up waltzing because of its Viennese connection? But they have other worries: Barty, a redoubtable bluestocking with a certain horsy charm, is jockeying for control of Lytton. Oh, and Celia’s dark secret? Kit, her fair-haired boy, doesn’t look so very much like her long-suffering husband, does he?

Trees of the world and dauntless readers, take note: The author gives warning on the last page that “this story is far from over.”

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58567-482-6

Page Count: 710

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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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.


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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To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.


Nantucket, not Woodstock, is the main attraction in Hilderbrand’s (Winter in Paradise, 2018, etc.) bittersweet nostalgia piece about the summer of 1969.

As is typical with Hilderbrand’s fiction, several members of a family have their says. Here, that family is the “stitched together” Foley-Levin clan, ruled over by the appropriately named matriarch, Exalta, aka Nonny, mother of Kate Levin. Exalta’s Nantucket house, All’s Fair, also appropriately named, is the main setting. Kate’s three older children, Blair, 24, Kirby, 20, and Tiger, 19, are products of her first marriage, to Wilder Foley, a war veteran, who shot himself. Second husband David Levin is the father of Jessie, who’s just turned 13. Tiger has been drafted and sends dispatches to Jessie from Vietnam. Kirby has been arrested twice while protesting the war in Boston. (Don’t tell Nonny!) Blair is married and pregnant; her MIT astrophysicist husband, Angus, is depressive, controlling, and deceitful—the unmelodramatic way Angus’ faults sneak up on both Blair and the reader is only one example of Hilderbrand’s firm grasp on real life. Many plot elements are specific to the year. Kirby is further rebelling by forgoing Nantucket for rival island Martha’s Vineyard—and a hotel job close to Chappaquiddick. Angus will be working at Mission Control for the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Kirby has difficult romantic encounters, first with her arresting officer, then with a black Harvard student whose mother has another reason, besides Kirby’s whiteness, to distrust her. Pick, grandson of Exalta’s caretaker, is planning to search for his hippie mother at Woodstock. Other complications seem very up-to-date: a country club tennis coach is a predator and pedophile. Anti-Semitism lurks beneath the club’s genteel veneer. Kate’s drinking has accelerated since Tiger’s deployment overseas. Exalta’s toughness is seemingly untempered by grandmotherly love. As always, Hilderbrand’s characters are utterly convincing and immediately draw us into their problems, from petty to grave. Sometimes, her densely packed tales seem to unravel toward the end. This is not one of those times.

To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-42001-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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