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Silent Lies

Author: M.L. Malcolm
ISBN: 1-56352-750-2

The following review was contributed by:  Kathryn Atwood: Click Here To View More Of Kathryn's   Reviews

"Silent Lies" is a historical novel that decidedly deserves the
occasionally overused term, "sweeping" and the book's fascinating settings
have much to do with this.  Placed in the tumultuous first half of the
twentieth century and set initially in Hungary - a country not often
associated with world war novels - the story is a compelling combination of
historical research and crackling description.  The book first explores the
vast difference between Hungary's feudal countryside and its sophisticated
capital, then touches on the brief post-WWI communist takeover of the
country before plunging into another fascinating but fictionally underused
setting: Shanghai.  It is there that we experience the wild abandon of the
20's followed by the rumblings of the second world war.

It's well for the book that the settings are so exciting and artfully
described  because the book is definitely driven by it's plot, not its main
character; it would have been difficult to create a character-driven novel
with a protagonist like Leo Hoffman.  He is a Hungarian national whose
flair for languages make him difficult for other characters to categorize
and a chameleon-like personality to match: "so subtle were his methods of
imitation - a stance, a gesture, a slight inflection of speech - that no
one suspected his whole demeanor was one of camouflage."  Because he is so
practiced in the art of camouflage, however, I initially couldn't find
myself concerned about his fate and especially wondered why Malcolm
included an early steamy, loveless sex scene between Leo, someone I hardly
cared about and Countess Julia, someone I hardly knew, a minor character
who seemed to be created just for that one scene.

When Leo meets his true love, however, the stars change, not only for him
but also for the reader.  Martha Levy, a well-delineated character, falls
for Leo, he falls for her and the reader falls for them both.  Malcolm
expertly sets their new love in the growing turbulence of pre-war Shanghai
and from that point on, the book officially becomes a "page-turner" in the
very best tradition of historical fiction.

Even if Malcolm wasn't a first-time novelist, Silent Lies would be a
phenomenal achievement; the sequel will be much anticipated.

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