LitPicks Book Reviews—April / May 2015

Theme—Stranger Than Fiction: Real-life events and personalities in this month's nonfiction works are far stranger than can be found in most novels. When it comes to the incredible, history trumps fiction...easily.
 

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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Erik Larson, 2015
448 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
April, 2015
Following his penchant for writing about grand historical events—while placing two contrasting worlds side-by-side—Erik Larson, takes on the sinking of the Lusitania. The ship's torpedoing by a German u-boat stunned the world and culminated, eventually, in America's entry into World War I.

In the hands of a skilled writer like Larson, the Lusitaia's demise becomes an epic event. His ability to conjure up the majestic ocean liner, its glorious interior, and the large personalities of its staff and passengers draws attention to the enormity of the loss.

 

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Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder in Belle Epoque Paris
Steven Levingston, 2014
352 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
April, 2015
Had this remarkable book been a crime novel, it would be easy to dismiss as improbable or far too dependent on coincidence. But Little Demon is a true story and should leave readers agog at the bizarre fashion in which real life unfolds.

As a taut police procedural—and one in which investigators appear outwardly incompetent while being quietly shrewd—Little Demon had me hooked. An added bonus is its stunning portrait of Belle Epoque Paris.

 

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A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal
Ben Macintrye, 2014
384 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
April, 2014
A good deal of ink has been spilled over the years on Kim Philby, the British spy working all the while for the Soviet Union, so it's surprising to find yet one more book on him. But Ben Macintyre, who has penned some of the most exciting true-life spy stories written, takes a different approach.

Macintyre considers Philby in the light of his decades-long friendships within the old boys' club of British intelligence. Given the closeness and length of those friendships, Philby's secrecy, duplicity—and brazenness—boggle the mind. Yet his betrayal is part of cold war history, as are the countless lives lost because of him.

 

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