An engaging, unusual fugitive tale mixing bloodshed and quirky humor with a provocative ending.

FENDER HEAD

A novel traces the life of a World War II German soldier who escapes from a prisoner-of-war camp on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, eventually assuming an alias and becoming a career officer in the American military.

McEvilla’s prologue lays out the key elements of the plotline, telling readers up front where the story will go and signaling that a secret remains after the final page is read. The narrative then details the strange adventures of a man trying to blend into a country and culture he had once vowed to defeat. In January 1945, 20-something Lothar Laumer, a former paratrooper with sworn allegiance to Hitler, has one goal—to get out of a Michigan POW camp and reach his half brother in Milwaukee. He and two camp mates escape via a tunnel and begin trudging through subzero temperatures and a snowstorm. Laumer spots a service station manned by an attendant refueling a car. Leaving his two compatriots on the road, Laumer kills the attendant by smashing his head with a rock, steals the car, and leaves his fellow escapees to fend for themselves. He is now not only a runaway POW, but also a murderer. During the next two days, Laumer acquires a gun, loses his car in a landslide, and winds up traveling miles on a pair of skis. At a highway intersection, he is struck by a car driven by Emma, a blond woman who brings him back to her isolated cabin in the woods. McEvilla has assigned himself the task of keeping readers interested in an unlikable protagonist who is excited by violence and danger. The author succeeds by burdening Laumer with an obsessive fear of being caught, challenging him with the difficulties of learning American colloquialisms (most of which amusingly involve baseball), and placing him in a situation in which he is totally dominated by a powerful, fiercely independent, and eccentric woman. Their ensuing relationship is the most tender part of the novel and results in the gradual conversion of Laumer into Sgt. Vincent Vanderjack, aka “The Dutchman,” who serves in the American military.

An engaging, unusual fugitive tale mixing bloodshed and quirky humor with a provocative ending.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-95-480402-9

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Global Publishing Group LLC

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2021

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Terrifying, primal, and very, very tense. Read it with your heart in your throat—but read it.

ONE STEP TOO FAR

Frankie Elkin, a miraculous finder of missing persons, seeks a man who wandered into the wilderness and was never seen again.

Last seen rescuing a missing teenager from the gritty streets of Boston, Frankie embarks from a bus in Ramsey, Wyoming, drawn in by the story of hiker Timothy O’Day, who's been missing for five years, and the last-gasp efforts of his father, Martin, to search for his remains. Frankie has some regrets about leaving Boston, but she's called to find those others have given up on. She manages to finagle her way on to the search party, which in addition to Martin includes a local guide; a search-and-rescue dog and her handler; a Bigfoot expert; and Tim’s friends, who were in the woods with him when he went missing. In the years since, they’ve moved on with their lives, but they are carrying guilt and secrets about the night Tim disappeared. As they all head into the unforgiving wilderness, it quickly becomes apparent that someone is deeply threatened by this effort to find Tim’s body. As she endeavors to draw the truth from each member of the search party, Frankie can tell that she's in over her head, and not only because she’s an inexperienced outdoorswoman. Could Tim still be alive and looking for revenge, or is there a more dangerous secret that someone would kill to protect? Gardner is incredibly skilled at developing tension and suspense; she’s equally skilled at slowly revealing complex characters and their secrets. Both gifts reinforce each other in this novel. If Frankie is out of her element, so are we: It’s not often that a thriller so deeply casts us into the darkness of both nature and the human heart.

Terrifying, primal, and very, very tense. Read it with your heart in your throat—but read it.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18541-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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