A wickedly enthralling novel by one of Poland's emerging literary stars.

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THE KING OF WARSAW

Set in late-1930s Poland, this haunted epic recounts the violent life of an aging Jewish prizefighter who finds another outlet for his brutish skills as a powerful drug lord's enforcer.

A hero in Warsaw's Jewish community for demolishing the stereotype of the weak Jew by battering his boxing opponents, 37-year-old heavyweight Jakub Szapiro thinks nothing of murdering Jews as well as gentiles outside the ring. The Hebrew letters for "death" are tattooed on the fingers of his right hand. Though he is a caring husband and father whose loving wife is trying to wear down his resistance to immigrating to Palestine, he cavorts with prostitutes. He pines for the ex-flame who runs the local brothel—and who, like most women in the book, is at risk of being physically abused by men. The book's unreliable narrator is Moyshe, the 17-year-old son of one of Jakub's victims, a struggling shopkeeper and administrative clerk who failed to pay his debts. Impressed by Jakub's "arrogantly grand" manner in the ring, the teenager dispassionately watches as the enforcer drags his father away by the beard and, with two cohorts, later dismembers him. Drawn into Jakub's hellish world after the enforcer adopts him, the boy loses all sense of self. He has visions of a sperm whale floating over the city, staring at Moyshe's Jonah with burning eyes. "Instead of God, I began to believe in monstrosity," Moyshe says. Streaked with magic realism and dream logic, the novel slides eerily between reality and illusion, 1930s Poland and 1980s Israel, where Moyshe has morphed into a retired Israeli army officer typing out his Warsaw memories. Driven by a ruthless energy, the first of Twardoch's novels to be available in an English translation is astonishing and heartbreaking in equal measure. It never runs out of revelation.

A wickedly enthralling novel by one of Poland's emerging literary stars.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4446-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: AmazonCrossing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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