Despite the leads’ enjoyable banter and the engaging premise, McMillan (A Singular and Whimsical Problem, 2015, etc.) tries...



Two women form a detective agency and try to solve a murder in 1910 Toronto. Oh my!

Constable Jasper Forth knows he’s getting himself in trouble when he’s talked into showing a friend a murder scene, but when the friend is as persistent as Merinda Herringford, it’s hard to say no. Merinda, who’s always felt she has a bit of Sherlock Holmes in her, is keen to conduct her own inquiry into the murder, and she calls on her Watson, Jem Watts, to assist. Two women trying to solve crimes is a bit much for Toronto in 1910, and there’s an uproar when Merinda cajoles Jem into starting their own detective business. Luckily for the pair, some of the uproar is good. There are a surprising number of female clients who prefer a delicate touch in establishing whose husband has done what and investigating other private affairs. Though there’s precious little money in the agency, Merinda’s delighted with their work, and Jem’s happy enough to go along. Merinda remains fixated on roping Jasper into finding out more about the murder that encouraged her to start the business in the first place; Jem’s more interested in an informal and personal investigation of local writer Ray DeLuca, who hasn’t befriended the women nearly enough for Jem’s liking .

Despite the leads’ enjoyable banter and the engaging premise, McMillan (A Singular and Whimsical Problem, 2015, etc.) tries to shoehorn so many different kinds of material into a single adventure that some of her most promising ideas end up insufficiently or imperfectly realized.

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7369-6640-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harvest House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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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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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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