An engrossing and informative postwar tale with an abundance of intriguing characters.

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HARD OF HEALING

From the Ingrid's Wars series , Vol. 2

This second volume of a trilogy continues the saga of a fictional aristocrat as she confronts the chaotic aftermath of World War II.

It is October 1944; the Germans have been pushed out of France; and the Nazi-backed Vichy government has fallen. World War II has ended here in Duchamp, along the Swiss border. But the wounds are still open and festering. Ingrid deVochard Fellner and Dieter Van der Kreuzier are living together in her home, the place where she sexually “entertained” Nazi officers while she hid a constant stream of Jewish refugees in her basement. She and Dieter worked together in the French Resistance. Now, they begin the long and painful task of rebuilding their lives. Ingrid tells readers that she still loves Dieter, “but now I realize we are too shattered in body and soul to celebrate our ‘victory.’ ” Dieter, once a powerful leader of the underground, is blind, the result of a vicious beating after having been arrested by the “Milice, the French Paramilitary Police…created under Vichy leader Pierre Laval.” Ingrid bears her own scars. Right after the liberation, the townspeople of Duchamp, not knowing that Ingrid was in the Resistance, attacked her as a Nazi collaborator, shaving her head and putting her on trial. Although vindicated, she is still the subject of town gossip. In need of a new place to heal, Ingrid heads north in June 1945 to volunteer at a displaced persons camp—“Freiheim”—on the German border in Alsace. Freiheim serves as Book 2’s inflection point, the place where new characters will intersect with the established cast, expanding Ingrid’s cobbled-together family and helping to carry the narrative to 1964. Ingrid is Libby’s (The Resistance Between Us, 2017) articulate, in-the-moment narrator of this compelling tale, which is filled with chilling historical details, many of them revealed through the protagonist’s interviews with European refugees and concentration camp survivors. They arrive at Freiheim broken, locked in the terrors of the past few years, with no hopes for the future. The most poignant and narratively pivotal of these survivors is 11-year-old Maurice Lebenkern. Maurice, who has lost his entire family, will prove to be the vehicle for Dieter’s gradual emotional recovery. Ingrid’s journey is more complex than Dieter’s. She is wrestling with both anger and her guilt for having shot and killed an SS officer in her basement, even though it was in self-defense. The author deftly raises a number of social and political issues in this volume, including the gradual postwar emancipation of Frenchwomen (who did not receive the vote until 1944) and the anti-Semitism that still simmers in Europe (Jewish refugees are assigned to a separate barracks for their own protection). But the bulk of the narrative is relationship driven and heavily emotional. In addition to the complex romance between Dieter and Ingrid, there are several love stories among the more important secondary characters that are engaging, albeit sometimes bordering on melodrama. And Ingrid’s constant mental meanderings and angst in her search for inner peace at times becomes exhausting. Still, with vivid prose and a riveting subject, the story is addictive. Libby’s annotated “Informal Appendix” is a useful linguistic, geographical, historical, and political supplement.

An engrossing and informative postwar tale with an abundance of intriguing characters.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Mistral Editions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 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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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

ONE MINUTE OUT

Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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