Friday, November 6, 2015

The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro

24001083The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro, author of the bestselling The Art Forger, is an enthralling and gripping historical suspense mystery thriller with life, art and politics of pre-World War II New York City as the setting, with the story shifting back and forth from the past to the present, and the author bringing to life historical characters from the past and imaginatively mingling them with an array of fictional characters. Written in a style only B.A. Shapiro can, with a subject close to her heart as the pivotal theme of the novel, what you have is a mix of factual and fictional events vying for centre-stage as the story unfolds.

The story begins in the present-day with Danielle Abrams, who is the great-niece of Alizee Benoit, trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of her great-aunt over seventy years before. Her family has been clueless, and disinterested, about the whole affair drawing her curiosity. The stoic silence of Danielle’s Holocaust-surviving grandparents shrouded what little might have been known until something happened, lifted the veil and takes her further into the mystery.

Alizee Benoit’s story begins in 1939. She was working as a muralist for WPA project. She was “charismatic, headstrong and talented.” One day, she disappeared into pre-World War II New York City at almost the same time her entire family disappeared into Europe. Just as lost, just as gone, but with no bombs, no concentration camps, no lists of the dead, no explanation. In a sense, The Muralist is a family mystery with a strong narrative as Danielle tries to uncover everything about Alizee. But it is much more than that.

Though Alizee Benoit and Danielle Abrams’ intertwined stories are at the heart of the novel, the author explored various issues of the period, from politics to war to art, and examined the degree of anti-Semitism prevalent in the 1930s and ‘40s with restaurants placing signs barring Jews and blacks. It was a moment in American history when instant communication was still a dream, and in the pages of The Muralist, author B.A. Shapiro deconstructed history, misconceptions and misapprehensions about historical events, and throws new light on them in more ways than one would dare to imagine. Compelling and fascinating, it is a must-read if you loved The Art Forger!

Cross Justice (Alex Cross #23) by James Patterson



It’s twenty-three years and twenty-three installments of justice the Alex Cross-way since the first book in the series, Along Came a Spider, appeared in 1992. James Patterson has changed little. His trademark short chapters continue to enthrall readers, and his books continue to sell like hot cakes. They continue to generate interest, and make for an exciting and fast read. My admiration for him is full to the brim though I also have a huge pile of gripes, mostly relating to the frequent releases bearing his name and the over-pricing of Kindle versions of his books. I’m almost tempted to give up on his novels occasionally, but as a die-hard fan, though I groaned, grumbled and berated his propensity of churning out book after book almost every month, I can’t get myself to actually act.

With Cross Justice, bestselling author James Patterson returns with his most famous character in a plot that is both gripping and fast-paced. Fans of the master storyteller can rest assured in the knowledge that this episode of the series is much better than the insipid Cross My Heart and Hope to Die. It is as entertaining as ever with Cross returning home for the first time after thirty-five years, only to be confronted with a daunting task as he finds himself ensnared in a quagmire of harsh reality and secrets, and an enemy as dangerous as any other. What prompted Alex and his family to return home was the upcoming trial of his cousin, Stefan Tate, a gym teacher accused of torturing and killing a thirteen-year-old boy named Rashawn Turnbull.

Alex Cross series is the only series that James Patterson writes without any co-author, which is a good thing. With sharp twists and turns, readers are in for shocking and fascinating treat in Cross Justice. The appearance of a family member whom Alex thought was dead was a nice surprise. The Reverend Alicia, Marvin Bell, the police chief and the local judge all played a pivotal role in the story. The toast "May God bless the Crosses" at the end beautifully sums up one of the best Alex Cross novels, and James Patterson fans couldn't have hoped for a better ending. I’m glad Cross Justice has renewed my faith in him, and I look forward to many more from him.