Vivid derring-do moves swiftly through a carefully constructed espionage thriller.



An exciting history of the battle for atomic supremacy during World War II.

The core mission of the quasi-military group called “Alsos,” part of the Manhattan Project, which was led by colorful scientist Boris Pash, was to determine the extent of Nazi efforts to produce an atomic bomb and to thwart it by any means possible. The Reich, after all, had world-class physicists like Nobel laureate Werner Heisenberg. The Allies, too, had considerable talent, most notably Enrico Fermi. Science writer Kean (Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us, 2017, etc.) enlists several supporting players who had largely incidental, though dramatic, parts in the effort to deny the Germans’ attempts to create an atomic bomb. There was Moe Berg, a spy and professional baseball catcher, who had the chance to capture or kill Heisenberg—but he was uncertain. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. perished in a nutty scheme to destroy what was thought to be a delivery system for nuclear weapons. The cast of characters, all well delineated by the author, include Irène Joliot-Curie and Frédéric Joliot, Robert Oppenheimer, Wernher von Braun, and Gen. Leslie Groves. “Known as a brilliant but ruthless manager—simultaneously the best construction foreman and the biggest asshole in the military—Groves was in charge of all army construction within the United States and on offshore bases at the war’s outset,” writes the author, who helps readers keep other characters straight with amusing descriptors: A colonel at Rennes was a “big swinging dick”; a “babbling” Neils Bohr “was simply incapable of keeping his trap shut.” Throughout, Kean eschews erudite fastidiousness for consistent action and brio. Beginning with the title, the narrative is an engrossing cinematic drama, not an academic text. (Spoiler: Hitler, who was never much interested in science, lost.)

Vivid derring-do moves swiftly through a carefully constructed espionage thriller.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-38168-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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