Literate. Brilliant. Entertaining.

READ REVIEW

THE BROTHERHOOD OF BOOK HUNTERS

Reaching back to the tumultuous 15th century, Jerusalmy chronicles a fictional tale of real-life brigand/poet François Villon, dispatched to find The Brotherhood of Book Hunters.

Jerusalmy’s dense and erudite narrative begins in Paris. Villon has been imprisoned for his writings, but Louis XI and Guillaume Chartier, bishop of Paris, are scheming to break Rome’s hold over France. The pair want Villon to lure Johann Fust, a Gutenberg ally, to Paris to establish a printing concern to make his books more available. The king’s plot later expands. He forces Villon and Colin de Cayeux, another Coquillard bandit, to journey to Jerusalem, “homeland of prophets and psalmists, peasants and fallen angels.” They’re to find the shadowy Brotherhood, an eclectic collection of Jews, revisionist Christians and others intent on preserving the world’s knowledge, and secure books to supply the Paris printing presses. As the hardy pair trek “from Rue St. Jacques to Genoa, from Acre to the monastery in Galilee and to Safed,” characters abound: the fashionable fop and de’ Medici agent Federico Castaldi; archivist Brother Médard, a cranky, combative dwarf; and young Rabbi Gamliel ben Sira, gaon of Safed, who speaks for the Brotherhood’s secret leader. In the library, located deep underground in “Invisible Jerusalem,” Villon learns the Brotherhood’s collection includes the “overwhelming testament dictated by Jesus to the high priest Annas just before his arrest,” a document critical to the Papacy and freethinkers alike. In deft translation, the novel sparkles with fanciful descriptions—“He would throw a judicious quotation at an eminent rival as you throw a knife at a straw target”—and Machiavellian machinations, highlighted by scholarly but accessible ruminations on Aristotle and Plato, religion and humanism, which are symbolically relevant to the forces gathering to bring on Reformation and Enlightenment, “to free the word from those who had been keeping it hostage in their chapels and cellars for centuries.”

Literate. Brilliant. Entertaining.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60945-230-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more