Berry (The Amber Room, 2003, etc.) sometimes overforeshadows his revelations, but he serves tantalizingly true tidbits about...

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THE THIRD SECRET

Nearly a century after the miracle of Fatima, an unrevealed secret wreaks havoc in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

Fatima, Portugal, 1917. The Virgin Mary, on her third miraculous visitation, imparts a trio of secrets to Lucia, the eldest of the trio of children whom “The Lady” has blessed with the ability to see her. Eighty-plus years later, Monsignor Colin Michener, secretary to Pope Clement XV, notices that the boss has lately been prowling the Vatican secret archive in the dead of night for more information about Fatima. Also noticing is the ambitious and, it’s progressively revealed, ruthless Cardinal Valendrea, who, appropriately, has a fawning sidekick in Father Paolo Ambrosi. Michener pieces together additional facts about Lucia. She eventually did disclose the first two of her three secrets but then, falling prematurely into ill health, committed the third to paper and directed that it remain sealed until 1960. At that time, it was translated for Pope John XXIII by young Father Andrej Tibor. Beyond this, the details of the third secret become murky. Sensing a big story is star freelance journalist Katerina Lew, whose affair with maverick priest Father Tom Healy has triggered a disciplinary tribunal at the Vatican (Valendrea takes unseemly pleasure in predicting Healy’s removal from the priesthood). Katerina is also the former lover of Michener, who chose the Church over her a long time ago. When Michener decides to visit Tibor, now retired and working with orphans in Romania, Valendrea sends a conflicted Katerina to hook up with him. Michener senses Tibor’s guardedness and is unable to learn anything of importance. The suicide of Pope Clement then sends the Vatican into turmoil and the story into overdrive as a contentious papal election and the prophesies of St. Malachy figure prominently in its resolution.

Berry (The Amber Room, 2003, etc.) sometimes overforeshadows his revelations, but he serves tantalizingly true tidbits about the Church, and his measured, elegant prose is a solid fit with the story.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-345-47613-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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