The second installment’s streamlined plot results in a crisper, more engaging thriller.

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VALHALLA REVEALED

Wright’s (Beyond Ultra, 2011) historical novel continues the saga of the Hoffman and Ortega families as various countries try to track down a German submarine and a man searches for his missing brother.

In 1946, former OSS agent Paul Hoffman still wonders about his brother, Hans, a German U-boat officer who disappeared near the end of World War II along with their uncle, Walter, of the German navy. The Nazis would like to know the whereabouts of the men as well, since their Operation Valhalla failed largely because key information about atomic and biological weapons disappeared—information that was under Walter’s supervision. Former members of the now-dissolved Gestapo decide to keep tabs on the family, including Paul’s brother-in-law, Harvard Law School student Jack Kurtz; and Paul’s cousin, Spanish naval officer Alberto Ortega. Meanwhile, the CIA enlists Paul and Jack to verify or refute the existence of a German nuclear reactor, which leads them to intel on Operation Valhalla, and Spanish Capt. Luis Carrero orders Alberto to track down Paul’s father, Karl, who might lead him to the much-desired Nazi information. Wright’s novel, which spans the years 1946 to 1979, is just as epic in scope as his previous book but decidedly more focused. The first installment, which covered 1915 to 1945, spent the bulk of its story establishing the two families’ histories before delving into the repercussions of war, but this latest is an ideal merging of drama, espionage and historical fiction. Paul’s driving force—finding his brother—is established on the first page and never wavers. The historical backdrop is remarkably detailed, as the characters live through different presidential administrations, the Kennedy assassination, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Also, this time around, the family drama takes place in the midst of a complex story; Paul, for instance, must deal with the realization that double agents are on American soil as he confronts his slowly developing affection for the widowed Anita, who happens to be his cousin. Wright also offers invigorating action scenes, such as when Paul and Jack narrowly escape from secret police in Prague.

The second installment’s streamlined plot results in a crisper, more engaging thriller.

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494772444

Page Count: 450

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS

In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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