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August 19, 2022

George Ernsberger
Posted 8/19/22

Small Acts of Defiance by Mi- chelle Wright (Morrow). Another really fine, big novel being pub- lished as what’s called a “qual- ity” (in the book biz a “trade”) …

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August 19, 2022


Small Acts of Defiance by Mi- chelle Wright (Morrow). Another really fine, big novel being pub- lished as what’s called a “qual- ity” (in the book biz a “trade”) paperback (there’s more of that going on, isn’t there?). It’s a war novel, full of suspense and also tragedy, set in Nazi-occupied Paris early in WWII. Our central characters are an Australian
girl, a teenager, and her recently widowed French mother; the girl is an artist (not professional, at least not yet), and enormously likable and admirable—and for all that, altogether believable, a great character to root for. She
is the real protagonist of this busy, beautifully written novel, developing friendships and soon enough finding ways to frustrate and undermine the vicious Nazi occupiers, of course at terrible risk. The graceful style is no surprise, Michelle Wright is well known for her short stories; and the vivid presence she sets before us of the City of Light is evidence that she lived in Paris for some years (a lot more recently than the 1940s, of course).

Desperate Undertaking: A Fla- via Alba Novel by Lindsey Davis (Minotaur). This historical mys- tery novel, set in ancient Rome, is the tenth in a series that I can’t see how the column could have ignored for so long. It’s what I’ve been inclined to call rich, full
of the feel for place and people, as well as carefully worked-out suspense (it’s quite dark, actually, not offensively explicit, but gory in its facts). It works just fine
all by itself, and libraries every- where will surely have more from this author/series/character.

The Last Paladin by P. T. Deu- termann (St. Martin’s). A new Deutermann WWII naval combat novel, this one said to be based on a real, historical ship and campaign (the author, recall,

had a full career as a Naval offi- cer). This a full-of-action, bat- tle-at-sea novel—not huge gun battles, in this case; the enemy
is submarines, and the ship is a destroyer escort, the smallest of the full size combat ships. (Oh, and while we’re characterizing: the column once characterized P. T. Deutermann’s rank in the Navy as that of a “flag officer”; it mis- spoke. He was a Captain—cer- tainly senior, the equivalent of an Army Colonel, but “flag” applies to Admirals and Generals).

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda (Scribner). Basically a suspense novel, a complex and yet lucid thriller. It’s narrated by a woman who’s good company, observant and bright, though somewhat lost in the world, and a loner. This is in our south- eastern mountains, a (fictional) place known as “the most dan- gerous town in North Carolina,” where there have been a num- ber of creepy disappearances, never solved, over the past few years. We learn of them as we experience the arrival of a new investigator, the brother of one of those lost, checking in at the hotel where our narrator is the manager. That developing rela- tionship, between him and our friend, is as well realized as the suspense plot.



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