An impressive, overwhelming story of love, loss, and nostalgia written from an exile’s perspective.



Can a mother’s intervention save her son, falsely accused of murder and on the run in their home city of Damascus? In this hybrid novel—part thriller, part panorama of a troubled land—a Syrian-born German writer explores the characters, clans, culture, and emotions of his nation of origin.

Two Syrian tales wind through Schami’s (The Calligrapher’s Secret, 2011, etc.) epic new work: a scandalous love story between an aging couple, one Christian and one Muslim, and the episodic life of an ex-revolutionary who's successfully relocated to Europe. Karim and Aida are the mature lovers, immersed in a passionate romance despite the disapproval of their neighbors. And then there’s Salman Baladi, who, when young and idealistic, discovered socialism and, after the 1963 Syrian political coup, joined the armed resistance. But a crisis of disillusionment ensued and Salman fled. Now settled in Rome with a wife, a son, and a successful food-importing business, he still yearns for home: “My soul is in Damascus, wandering the streets of my childhood.” So, after 40 years away, when an amnesty is declared, he decides to risk a return visit to Syria, to salve the pain of exile. That trip and its ensuing problems eventually connect his story to Karim and Aida’s, the link being Sophia, Salman’s mother, who asks Karim to help her son in the same way she rescued Karim years earlier. Elegant and lucid, this literary saga offers a wealth of material, much of it consisting of extended biographies, flashbacks, and romances that pitch a richly remembered past against a corrupted present. Layered with revolution and dictatorship, faiths and philosophies, families and enemies, and many love affairs, the book offers humanity over politics and achieves its greatest impact in the quiet scenes, ranging from an account of torture shot through with black comedy to the unfettered, scandalous joy of a woman riding a bicycle.

An impressive, overwhelming story of love, loss, and nostalgia written from an exile’s perspective.

Pub Date: March 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-56656-031-3

Page Count: 462

Publisher: Interlink

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.


An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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