A rewarding and beautifully written, if blood-soaked, tale.


Romeo and Juliet meets Arturo Pérez-Reverte and John le Carré in the dusty streets of Damascus in this novel from Syrian-born Schami, a bestselling author in his adopted homeland of Germany.

The setup: The body of a Syrian intelligence officer is found in a rather unnatural position that rules out suicide. A police commissioner named Barudi steps in to investigate. Stop one is the alluring young widow, “composed, cool, and monosyllabic”—and utterly unhelpful, though Barudi, lonely bachelor that he is, allows that he “would have liked to catch a glimpse of whatever lay beneath her façade.” What lies beneath Madhi Said’s murder, however, is anything but monosyllabic. Bit by bit, Schami reveals an endlessly complex tale that turns on a simple universal: Boy meets girl, boy’s mom and dad disapprove, girl’s mom and dad disapprove, mayhem ensues. The Shahin and Mushtak clans are bound, as if by fate, to hate each other with pure fire, as young Rana Shahin and Farid Mushtak discover, try as they might to get away from the discord and merely be together. (“I want you to know,” Rana tells Farid, “that even if I have to wait all my life to live free with you for a single day, I won’t regret it.”) The reader soon senses, as this long but swiftly paced narrative unfolds, that there is more going on than an ordinary vendetta, for Schami is carefully describing life under one of the most oppressive dictatorships in the world, and moreover, the dissolution of ancient bonds that enabled Syria’s Christians, Muslims and Jews to coexist. Schami’s multilayered allegory is never obviously allegorical, but it is insistent in exploring the mysteries of identity (“His real name was not George Mushtak at all, but Nassif Jasegi”). The truth that Barudi eventually ferrets out pleases no one, and, as in all dictatorships, he is punished for it—caught, as it happens, in a blood feud of a different kind.

A rewarding and beautifully written, if blood-soaked, tale.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56656-780-0

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Interlink

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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