Fast, fact-filled, and quite fun. A blast, really.

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POMPEII

A straight-arrow Imperial Roman hydraulic engineer on assignment in Naples plumbs into the corruption of the waterworks as Vesuvius begins to rumble.

How do you breathe life into a 2,000-year-old catastrophe? If you’re the thoroughly capable British novelist-journalist-columnist Harris (Archangel, 1999, etc.), you conjure up an unassuming but utterly trustworthy civil engineer, Marcus Attilius Primus, have the Emperor send him from Rome to the steamy south to fill the mysteriously vacated shoes of the longtime overseer of the Aqua Augusta, the local water supply, throw him up against embedded proto-Mafia corruption, bring in real-life polymath admiral Pliny the Elder, stir up a pen of man-eating eels, sketch a long-legged lass about to be wed to one of her criminal father’s tame politicians, and steam everything in sulfurous vapors of the continent’s great sleeping volcano. Although they may be in Imperial drag, Harris’s slaves, masters, bureaucrats, and soldiers move through the streets of Pompeii, a pretty little city on the make, like . . . well . . . Italians. And who ever would have thought the ins and outs of an aqueduct would work to knit everything together? Engineering may be geeky to some, but you’ve got to respect a public work that works, bringing water over arches and through tunnels hundreds of miles from the mountains to greater Naples, where it plashes through fountains and baths. But the water has suddenly stopped west of the Pompeii junction. Did Attilius’ predecessor skimp on the maintenance? Hard to say since nobody will talk about him. And just what did nouveau superrich ex-slave Numerius Popidius Ampliatus, proud owner of a garish villa next to Pliny’s naval base, have to do with the water supply that feeds his fancy fish farm? And how did he make that fortune in little old Pompeii? And why is the ground steaming? And that wine glass—it’s trembling.

Fast, fact-filled, and quite fun. A blast, really.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-679-42889-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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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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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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LONG RANGE

Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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