A rousing opening degenerates into a routine legal thriller.

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FALSE WITNESS

The hunt for a code that would end the Internet as we know it pits three spunky law students against an unscrupulous FBI and vicious Chinese gangsters.

Squeaky-clean Christian thriller-writer Singer teases with a fast-moving, semi-zany opening section in which repo-man David Hoffman, working his jittery trade in Vegas, learns that he has 48 hours to locate Professor Dagan, whose Abacus Algorithm easily undoes the Internet’s most deeply imbedded security safeguards. Committed Christian Dagan planned to sell his secret to the world’s three most powerful private security firms and send his profits to churches in China, but the buyers were actually Triad gangsters who hold Hoffman’s peppy athletic wife Jessica hostage until they have their hands on that handy algorithm. Hoffman flounders for a few seconds, but comes up with a strategy in which he pledges every cent he has plus some he doesn’t to get information about Dagan from the local and well-informed community of bail bondsmen and repo-people and, within the deadline, he’s got his man. Then, in the handover of Dagan, the noble professor has to sacrifice himself to keep the Hoffmans alive. Cut to Atlanta, where the action bogs. Laser-focused third-year law student Jamie Brock and her Criminal Procedure classmates—studly, flamboyant, African-American Isaiah Washington and brilliant, nerdy, prodigy Wellington Farnsworth—have to endure the tiresome Socratic teaching methods of pudgy ex-Californian super-attorney-turned-professor Walter Snead. Snead, whose reputation is as unpleasant as his classroom manner, is also the supervisor of the legal-aid clinic where Jamie and Isaiah meet the downtrodden, including a client who doesn’t fit the usual profile when he first seeks help from Jamie and then takes it on the lam and disappears. Before you can say “witness protection program,” Jamie, Isaiah and Wellington are surrounded by bad guys, some of whom are so awful they kill a totally blameless Labrador retriever in cold blood!

A rousing opening degenerates into a routine legal thriller.

Pub Date: May 15, 2007

ISBN: 1-4000-7334-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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