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

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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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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