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Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

The Russia of Joseph Kanon’s Defectors (Atria, digital galley via NetGalley) is the Soviet Union circa 1961, gray and grim as the Cold War. Even the Party faithful have to wait in long lines for food and depend on the black market for basic amenities. Simon Weeks has often wondered why his older brother Frank, a CIA golden boy, chose to defect in 1949. Was it money, ideology, gamesmanship? Now Frank has written his KGB-approved memoirs and asks Simon, who became a publisher after his brother’s defection ended his State Department career, to edit the manuscript. Simon discovers his brother is as charming and wily as ever, even though he is accompanied everywhere by a minder, and the restricted, isolated lifestyle has turned his beautiful wife Joanna into an alcoholic. They consort only with other defectors, from famous figures like Guy Burgess to anonymous research scientists. A recent death in the group is presumed a suicide. When Frank begins to show his hand, Simon senses something is up and must fall back on old tradecraft. Betrayal is in the air, murder in a cathedral.

Kanon, who has written spy thrillers set in Istanbul, Berlin and Los Alamos, is at the top of his game. Defectors offers suspense and atmosphere galore, but it also explores the perplexing nature of a double agent, as well as enduring questions of loyalty to family and country. A timely tale.

I didn’t know much about World War I spies beyond Mata Hari until I read Kate Quinn’s compelling The Alice Network (HarperCollins, digital galley via edelweiss). The title comes from the name of a real-life group of female agents who operated in France during the Great War. American college student Charlie St. Clair first learns about the network in 1947 when she tries to find her cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the more recent war. Eve Gardiner, a reclusive, ill-tempered alcoholic and former Alice spy living in London, initially resists Charlie’s entreaty for help — she draws a gun on her — before setting out for France in her vintage roadster driven by charming ex-con Finn.

Quinn expertly propels parallel storylines, alternating between the 1947 road trip with its twists and dead ends, and Eve’s recruitment as a spy in 1915 and her dangerous work for the Alice network. Both stories, which eventually connect, are absorbing adventures, although Eve’s is the more harrowing as she becomes the unwilling mistress of a powerful German sympathizer. Still, Charlie also proves to be a resourceful, conflicted character with a not-so-little problem. Suspense increases as secrets come to light in both narratives. The Alice Network is sad and heart-breaking but also hopeful and redemptive.

In Mark Mills’ deft cat-and-mouse game of a thriller, Where Dead Men Meet (Blackstone Audio, digital galley via NetGalley), someone is trying to kill Luke Hamilton. Or it could be a case of mistaken identity in 1937 Paris, where Hamilton is assigned to the British Embassy. He is grieving at the news of the murder in England of Sister Agnes, the nun who took him in as an abandoned baby 25 years ago. Readers already know Sister Agnes’ murder is connected to the attempt on Luke’s life, but it is the appearance of the mysterious Bernard Fautrier who warns Luke he is in real danger.  The race — to escape the killers and to find out their motives — takes Luke to Nazi Germany, to neutral Switzerland, to enigmatic Venice. There are moments of exquisite tension, although the resolution of the main mystery comes a little too early. Still, complications ensue as table turns. Revenge is cold and deadly.

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herooffranceMathieu is his nom de guerre, and, like many of Alan Furst’s leading men, he’s something of a loner, a considered risk-taker who hides his intelligence and sophistication behind a quiet demeanor. He’s good at sizing up people, figuring out if they can be trusted. “And I’d better be,” he says, ”because I can only be wrong once.”

Mathieu is the capable leader of a small Resistance cell in A Hero of France (Random House, digital galley), Furst’s excellent new novel of the shadowy world of espionage. In previous books, he has focused mostly on the twilight years leading up to the war, but here it is March of 1941, and German-occupied Paris is dark and under curfew. Mathieu and his cell help rescue downed RAF pilots and crew members, hiding them in safe houses, securing false identity passes, providing disguises and escorting them to safety — perhaps by train through Vichy France and then to Spain, or in the back of a truck to the countryside and coast to await safe passage to England. It is dangerous, heart-stopping work, but these ordinary people — a professor, a nurse, a schoolteacher, a teen with a bicycle, a widow with a bureaucratic friend, a nightclub owner with connections — prove themselves over and over in extraordinary circumstances. But their actions can only go unnoticed for so long. A fatuous Brit wants to run the network from afar, encouraging riskier acts of sabotage. A German police detective is looking for an informer to penetrate the cell. Then there are the soldiers who will trip a man for no reason, and young street thugs playing at extortion.

The narrative is episodic, and Furst splices tense, action-filled scenes with interludes of relative calm. Mathieu begins a love affair with a neighbor, and adopts — or is adopted by — a Belgian shepherd dog. The writing is atmospheric: a crippled plane tries to land in silvery moonlight, lovers share secrets behind blackout curtains, a cafe owner shrugs when asked about the Resistance. “Monsieur, do you know what goes on in the cafes of Paris? Everything. Of course, one may have a glass of wine, a coffee, and something to eat, but there is more. Love affairs begin, love affairs end, swindlers meet their victims, victims meet their lawyers. But, mostly, the cafe is a place for people to go.” Including the heroes of France.

everyonebraveThe London Blitz is a staple of wartime novels and films, offering a dramatic backdrop for stories of courage and romance. The writer Kate Atkinson called it “the dark beating heart” of her novel Life after Life, and the same can be said of Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Simon & Schuster, digital galley). His fierce re-imagining of the Nazi bombs shattering buildings and lives is both wide-screen and close-up. Perhaps because his story is loosely based on the letters and wartime experiences of his grandparents, it feels immediate and personal.

England’s entry into the war in 1939 is a call to arms for Britain’s youth, including 18-year-old debutante Mary North, fresh out a Swiss boarding school. Her notion of a glamorous wartime job is quickly dashed by her assignment to a school whose students are being evacuated to the countryside. But not all children are suitable evacuees, including some who are physically disabled or mentally challenged, along with Zachary, the 10-year-old child of a black American musician. Mary convinces nice-guy Tom Shaw, a school administrator turned down for enlistment, to let her teach a small class of these outsiders. Tom and Mary begin a whirlwind courtship that is threatened both by Mary’s attraction to Tom’s best friend, Alistair Heath, an art restorer before he joined up, and the war itself, which sends Alistair to France and those left behind to air raid shelters. Eventually, Alistair will wind up in Malta, under siege by Axis forces, and Mary and her friend Hilda will volunteer as ambulance drivers.

Cleave’s harrowing descriptions of the homefront and battlefield are leavened by witty dialogue and letters among the characters. He also raises issues of race and class that seem shocking by today’s standards. Mary, Tom, Alistair, Hilda, Zachary — and a host of others — come across as complex and believable. You remember the stubborn  pride of Zachary’s father, the pursed lips of Mary’s mother, the camaraderie between Alistair and a fellow soldier, the resilience of small children, the bravery of those scared to death. You won’t forget Everyone Brave is Forgiven.

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letterwriterNew York City, 1942. The war overseas plays out in the homeland, too. The very day Woodrow Cain, a former North Carolina cop with a tarnished reputation, takes a job with the NYPD, the luxury liner Normandie burns on the waterfront. There’s a black smudge on the skyline, and Cain feels his new life is “as full of loss and betrayal as the one he’d left behind.”

Betrayal, of course, is the very stuff of spy fiction, and Dan Fesperman expertly meshes crime and espionage, corruption and conspiracy in The Letter Writer (Knopf, paperback galley). An unidentified body in the Hudson has Cain stymied until a mysterious man calling himself Danzinger directs him to the city’s “Little Deutschland” of Nazi sympathizers. Danzinger is the title character, an older, well-educated immigrant fluent in five languages, who deals in information while translating and writing letters for his fellow immigrants on the Lower East Side. Over the last few months, he has become increasingly aware of the peril looming overseas as his clients’ secrets darken and more of their letters go unanswered. Cain initially resists Danzinger’s help, but he has trouble trusting anyone in New York, including his colleagues at the 14th precinct and the wealthy, well-connected father of his ex-wife.

The plot is wonderfully complicated, but Fesperman’s crisp scenes reveal one secret after another, both those involving the murder investigation, and personal back stories. Cain’s young daughter arrives in New York, and he begins seeing a woman he meets through Danzinger. The war breeds “creative alliances” — as Danzinger puts it — and offers new opportunities for the Mob. Cain’s encounters with real-life gangsters Albert Anastasia and Meyer Lansky bristle with tension and suspense. Still, danger rises from an unexpected quarter. Bullets find a target.

Despite the high-wire action near end, The Letter Writer is more like Danzinger, a thoughtful, learned risk-taker holding secrets close. My kind of thriller.

cityofsecretsJerusalem, 1945. Jossi Brand, a Latvian Jewish refugee who survived the Nazi death camps, drives a taxi through the winding streets. He tries to be casual at British checkpoints as he hands over his forged identity papers, supplied, like his name and car, by the Jewish underground. A member of a small cell tied to the Haganah, he is haunted by his past and memories of his lost family, including his beloved wife Katya. By day, he drives tourists from one historic sight to another. At night, he chauffeurs the widow Eva, a fellow cell member, to her assignations. When it rains, he still can smell the blood in the backseat leftover from the unknown man he ferried to the Belgian hospice under cover of darkness.

Stewart O’Nan takes a noir turn in his compact new novel, City of Secrets (Viking, review copy), which is taut as a trip wire. Although narrow in scope, it is morally complex as Brand is further drawn into the Zionist resistance and his missions become more dangerous and potentially violent. Questions are discouraged, paranoia flourishes. Brand learns how to use explosives. He comes under suspicion as an informer. The British crack down on suspected illegal refugees, sending them by bus to detention camps. The militant Irgun retaliate by planning an attack that will have profound consequences for the future of Palestine. Brand wonders if this is any way to live.

O’Nan provides some historical context in an afterwards, but it helps if you’ve heard of the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel, or at least have read Leon Uris’ Exodus. But while I’m sure his research was meticulous, the names of the streets aren’t what give the book its authenticity. It’s the way O’Nan gets inside his characters’ heads. In his last novel, West of Sunset, it was F. Scott Fitzgerald. In Songs for the Missing, it was the family of a missing teen, and in Last Night at the Lobster, the workers at a closing chain eatery. Here it is Brand, a survivor who drifts into terrorism, a  man who has lost everything but hope. “He wanted the revolution — like the world — to be innocent, when it had never been.”

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furstDecember, 1937. The snow is falling in New York City as a lawyer visiting from Paris looks over his shoulder to see  if he is being followed. It’s also snowing in Madrid as a middle-aged museum curator waits nervously to be questioned by the authorities. The two men’s fates are soon linked in the atmospheric Midnight in Europe (Random House, digital galley), in which Alan Furst once again illuminates ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times as Hitler’s shadow looms ever larger. Here, the Spanish Civil War serves as a precursor of what is to come, and Spanish emigre Christian Ferrar, who works for an international law firm in Paris, agrees to help the Spanish Republic obtain much-needed arms to fight Franco’s fascists. There is an eye-opening train journey through industrial Germany in the company of an arms dealer wanted by the Gestapo, and later a more harrowing trip to Odessa and Poland in which a train is hijacked. Moments of heart-in-your-throat terror alternate with scenes in Paris nightclubs and bedrooms that whisper of betrayal and romance. No one is better than Furst at evoking this midnight hour before war plunges Europe into darkness.

twisted

Readers of S. J. Bolton’s gripping Lacey Flint novels know that the secretive London detective rarely goes with the flow. In A Dark and Twisting Tide (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley), she’s again risking life and limb, first by “wild-swimming” in the Thames, where’s she’s living on a houseboat, and then by going after a serial killer who is leaving the shrouded, drowned corpses of young women for her to find. She’s also risking her heart, growing closer to cop Mark Joesbury, whose undercover work takes him away for days at a time. Lacey goes undercover, too, disguising herself as an Afghan refugee to try and find out more about a possible human-trafficking ring targeting the tight-lipped immigrant community. Old friends and new enemies complicate matters, and then a nightmare comes true when she finds herself once again at the mercy of the river and a relentless pursuer who swims like a mermaid and attacks like a shark.

alldayAlafair Burke’s complex new thriller All Day and a Night (HarperCollins, digital galley) takes it title from prison lingo for a life sentence with no parole. That’s what presumed serial killer Anthony Amaro has been serving the last 18 years, which gives him a solid alibi for the murder of a Brooklyn psychotherapist. But because the body has the signature of Amaro’s old kills, it leads to the D.A. and police ordering a “fresh look” at his case. Is a copycat at work or was Amaro wrongfully convicted in the first place? As Amaro’s celebrity lawyer argues to get him released, Burke’s series detective Ellie Hatcher and her partner begin an investigation that takes them back two decades to the murder of a handful of prostitutes in Utica. Also investigating, but for Amaro’s side, is young lawyer Carrie Blank, whose half-sister Donna was one of the victims. Both Ellie and Carrie have conflicted feelings that spill over into their personal lives as old secrets come to light and loyalties are tested. Coincidences abound, but Burke keeps tensions high until almost the very end.

vertigo

How well do you know Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo? You might want to refresh your memory before starting Martha Grimes’ clever Vertigo 42 (Scribner, digital galley), in which Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury makes some dizzying connections between murders old and new. After meeting widower Tom Williamson at Vertigo 42, a London bar atop a financial-district high-rise, Jury takes off for Devon to look into the death of Williamson’s wife Tess 17 years ago. Did she fall — as the police think — or was she pushed — as her husband believes? And what, if anything, does childless Tess’s death have to do with the death five years earlier of a schoolgirl who fell into the country estate’s empty swimming pool while her pals were playing hide-and-seek? Meanwhile, Jury’s visit to his pal Melrose Plant’s country home presents him with the puzzle of a lost dog and the death of a young woman who fell from a nearby tower. Grimes juggles the surfeit of plots and the quirky cast with her usual ease, tipping her hat to Hitchcock and to previous Jury tales (there are 22) while readers’ heads spin.

strangerDetective constable Maeve Kerrigan often finds her brilliant boss, DI Josh Derwent, crude and rude. But no way she thinks he’s a murderer. Still, in Jane Casey’s sterling The Stranger You Know (St. Martin’s digital galley), Kerrigan’s  on the inside in the investigation of a serial killer who kills attractive young women in their homes, but Derwent’s shut out by their superiors. Not only does he fit the profile of a trustworthy stranger a woman might invite in her home, he also was the prime suspect in the long-ago, unsolved murder of his classmate Angela Poole. The new crime scenes have an uncanny similarity to Angela’s. Still loyal to Derwent, a wary Maeve continues the search for the “Gentleman Killer,” even as a stalker from her past reappears. Or has the killer targeted her?

someoneBrian McGilloway returns to Derry, Northern Ireland for the second Lucy Black thriller to be published in this country this year, after Little Girl Lost. In Someone You Know (HarperCollins/Witness Impulse, digital galley), Lucy’s assignment to the public protection squad again brings her into a murder investigation when an at-risk teen is killed, her body tied to the railroad tracks. If the train hadn’t been delayed, it would have destroyed the crime scene, and the death slated as a suicide. But someone is preying on Derry’s girls, even as they escape their dysfunctional homes to party with their friends, unaware just how close the enemy lurks. The daughter of two cops — one her chief superintendent boss, the other now suffering from dementia — Lucy has an affinity for the vulnerable that serves her well. A third book is on its way.

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fannieReaders of Fannie Flagg’s novel Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! will no doubt remember Sookie Poole, loyal college roommate of TV morning show host Dena Nordstrom. Forty years later, the two are still close confidantes, but we learn a lot more about Sookie in Flagg’s welcome new dramedy The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion  (Random House, digital galley). For that matter, Sookie learns a lot more about Sookie, and thereby hangs Flagg’s tale.

Unlike her pal Dena, Sookie Krackenberry Poole of Point Clear, Ala., has always known her people. Sure, she’s the 60-year-old wife of dentist Earle and mother of three girls (all recently wedded) and one son (single). But she’s also the dutiful daughter of 88-year-old, still-going-strong Southern matriarch Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, who is obsessed with her Simmons forebears.  Although Sookie has “the Simmons foot,” she has always been a disappointment in the ancestor-venerating department, and Lenore has a hissy fit when Sookie suggests giving all the Simmons family silver to her sister-in-law Bunny.  “Who is not even a Simmons — and not even from Alabama?” cries Lenore. “Why don’t you just cut my heart out and throw it in the yard?”

So, of course, Sookie relents and promises not break up the set of Francis I and to be a better daughter and thus a better Simmons. But that’s before the registered letter from Texas arrives in the mail and Sookie discovers she also has ties to another family — the Jurdabralinskis of Pulaski, Wisc., a colorful Polish-Catholic clan.

As Sookie’s world turns topsy-turvy, Flagg shifts the narrative to 1940s Wisconsin, where the Jurdabralinski family run Wink’s Phillips 66. Before the war, eldest daughter Fritzi was a barnstorming pilot, but she’s grounded when her partner is drafted as  a flight instructor. Her brother and the garage’s male mechanics also have joined up, so Fritzi and her three sisters pitch in to keep the family business running and turn it  into a popular roadside attraction.

But as Sookie discovers, the all-girl filling station is just one chapter in spirited Fritzi’s adventures. She becomes a Fly Girl, a member of the all-female WASPs, who fly transport and support missions for the Air Force during World War II, and two of her sisters follow suit.

Readers may think they know where the story is headed — and they may be right — but this journey to home truths offers delightful detours, from Sookie secretly meeting a psychiatrist at the Waffle House, to Fritzi outflying a condescending male pilot at a Texas airfield. Just as Fritzi’s a pro at barrel rolls, Flagg’s a whiz at loop-de-loops. Hang on, Sookie!

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roseRose Justice is a pilot, a poet, a POW. Most importantly, though, she has a promise to keep — “to tell the world” about the Nazi atrocities at the infamous World War II concentration camp Ravensbruck.

Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire (Disney/Hyperion, digital galley) is a companion volume to the award-winning Code Name Verity, and while a couple of characters overlap, it tells a very different story of friendship and bravery juxtaposed with the horrors of war. Most of it is told in retrospect by Rose, a young American volunteer transport pilot, and the beginning reads like a gallant girl’s adventure story with Rose training in England and being romanced by a soldier. But the tone changes drastically after Rose is forced down over enemy territory while flying transport and is captured by the Germans. Sent to Ravensbruck as a “skilled worker,” she suffers deprivations and humiliations, but nothing like what happens when she refuses to make fuses for flying bombs. Viciously beaten, she is thrown in with the political prisoners and sheltered by “the Polish rabbits,” the secretly defiant women and girls subjected to torturous medical experiments.

Readers know that Rose survived; interspersed sections find her writing furiously from a Paris hotel room, feeling like “a flea in a jewel box.” Eventually, she is brave enough to recount the desperate details of life — and  death — at the camp, plus her daring escape. A final section finds Rose several years later reporting on the Nuremburg trials. The whole is harrowing and heartbreaking, with indelible scenes: two Nazi guards fighting over the wrapper of a chocolate bar, the prisoners standing up for hours in the rain and cold, Ravensbruck as seen from the air, its lights shining from impenetrable darkness.

aftermathEverything is grey in Hamburg in 1946 — the devastated city, the dusty air, the defeated faces of the surviving population, mostly women and orphaned, feral children poking through the endless piles of rubble. This then is the bleak backdrop for Rhidian Brook’s intriguing novel The Aftermath (Knopf/Doubleday, digital galley), inspired by a family story. British Col. Lewis Morgan is charged with rebuilding the city even as he is reconstructing his own life in peacetime. His wife Rachael is unhappy to discover that Morgan has offered to share their requisitioned house with its owners, architect Stefan Lubert and his rebellious teenage daughter Freya, and she initially avoids the “enemy” in the upstairs apartment. But both families have suffered grievous losses in the war that provide a common ground of sorts, although Freya scorns the Morgans and takes up with a young German activist whose terrorist plotting could destroy the uneasy peace.

Col. Morgan’s efforts to reconcile the British occupation with the local citizenry is thwarted not only by pockets of resistance but also by the despicable actions of some of his own troops, who are hoarding the spoils of war. Brook invests his atmospheric story with themes of honor and forgiveness, love among the ruins, aptly painting all in shades of grey.

stellabainIn Anita Shreves’ involving Stella Bain (Little, Brown, digital galley), battles are fought both in the trenches of World War I France and in fine New England houses thousands of miles away. The combatants in both are wounded in mind and spirit. In a field hospital in 1916 Marne, a woman wakes up with only fragments of memory. Her accent identifies her as an American, she thinks her name is Stella Bain and that she knows how to drive an ambulance. But she believes the clues to her past lie in London, and it is there that a doctor’s wife finds her shivering in a park. Cranial surgeon August Bridge knows shell shock when he sees it, and he and wife Lily take Stella into their home. Some preliminary sessions of psychoanalysis help Stella recover more memories, some of which she depicts in her accomplished artwork. Then someone recognizes Stella — and she is not Stella.

The rest of the book follows the woman previously known as Stella Bain to the States to claim her complicated past, including the children she left behind with her professor husband. Shreve adroitly weaves information about shell shock — just being discovered in women — into the fabric of her hopeful tale of war and remembrance.

girlbehindMany coincidences and a single painting link two love stories — one in World I France, one in London 90 years later — in JoJo Moyes’ The Girl You Left Behind (Pamela Dorman/Viking, digital galley). In 1916, the Germans occupy a small village in northern France, home to 22-year-old Sophie LeFevre. Her husband Edouard is an artist being held in a “reprisal” camp, and Sophie makes dangerous sacrifices and compromises trying to keep her family alive and to reunite with Edouard.

In 2006 London, widowed 32-year-old Liv Halston’s most prized possession is the portrait “The Girl You Left Behind,” a gift from her late husband. But then the Lefevre family brings a restitution suit against Liv, claiming that the portrait of Sophie painted by Edouard rightfully belongs to them. To further complicate matters. Liv discovers that the new man in her life, Paul, is heading up the LeFevre’s case. The circumstances of the plot may come off as contrived, and the legal battle trifling compared to Sophie’s ordeal, but the actions and emotions of both heroines ring true to time and place.

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lightruinsWhat do you mean school starts this week?! Not that I’m going, but summer’s not over, and I have a towering TBR list to prove it. But before I can get to Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, which is as twisted as Twin Peaks, or to Samantha Shannon’s futuristic The Bone Season, which she wrote when she was a 19-year-old Oxford student, I need to catch up on assorted other books read but not yet blogged.
Love and revenge play out in Chris Bohjalian’s absorbing The Light in the Ruins (Knopf/Doubleday, digital galley), part WWII saga, part police procedural. In 1943 Tuscany, the aristocratic Rosatis are coerced into welcoming a German archaelogist and Nazi soldiers to the family villa. But that’s just the half of it. Ten years later, Florence police detective Seraphina Bettini follows a serial killer targeting the surviving Rosatis, and the trail leads her back to the war and her own past as a young partisan. I’m not much on the interspersed short chapters from the bloodthirsty killer’s point-of-view. Not only are they redundant, but they also give away the assassin’s identity.
butterflysisterAmy Gail Hansen spins an intriguing, coincidence-studded first novel, The Butterfly Sister (Morrow, digital galley). Ruby Rousseau mistakenly receives a suitcase belonging to her former Tarble College classmate Beth Richards, then learns that Beth has gone missing. A copy of a Virginia Woolf book among Beth’s possessions suggests to Ruby that Beth was entangled with campus lothario and professor Mark Suter, who broke Ruby’s heart and led to her attempting suicide. Returning to the women’s college near Chicago for a convenient reunion, Ruby, supposedly on assignment for a small newspaper, finds that another student has been hospitalized because of an aborted suicide. Complications ensue, encompassing campus politics, plagiarism and sexual harassment, as well as the shades of Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sylvia Plath. Then again, Ruby may not be the most reliable narrator.
skyeJessica Brockmole skirts sentimentality with Letters from Skye (Random House, digital galley), a novel of love and war told entirely in letters. The first correspondents are Scottish poet Elspeth Grant and American student David Graham. He sends her a fan letter in 1912, and the ensuing exchange charts their relationship through the first World War, as Elspeth’s young husband goes off to the front lines and David becomes an ambulance driver in France. Do their paths ever intersect? Years later, Elspeth’s daughter Margaret writes to her estranged uncle and her fiance about her quest to find out more about her father, whom Elspeth wouldn’t talk about. You might think you know where the story is going, but Brockmole surprises with her missives, scattering clues here and there. Read between the lines.
spearWhat are the chances of two authors, each taking a break from an established series, setting their new novels in the same exotic locale? We’re off to 1920s Kenya with disgraced socialite Delilah Drummond in Deanna Raybourn’s A Spear of Summer Grass (Harlequin, digital galley). The dissolute expat milieu would seem to be the perfect place for vain Delilah, but her romance with the dashing Ryder White and her experiences with the Kikuyu tribe show her to made of stronger stuff as she pursues a new life.
willigThere’s also romance, adventure and scandal in Lauren Willig’s The Ashford Affair (St. Martin’s, review ARC), which intertwines the story of Manhattan attorney Clemmie with that of her 99-year-old grandmother Addie. Addie’s tale, which reaches back to World War I London and then post-war Kenya, is the more interesting, tied as it is to her rich cousin Bea’s exploits and affairs. Clemmie’s research of the family tree yields secrets and surprises.

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