I am going to do something a little different than normal, I am going to combine two books into this review because if you read one, you need to read the other.
After The Auction and The Lost Torah of Shanghai by Lind Frank
Media source: Paperback
Rating 4.5 out of 5
Recommendation: I highly recommend these novels for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, historical elements. I was enthralled with both books and recommend them to anyone who wants a good book on their shelf.
Both novels focus on Lily Kovner as she searches for lost Jewish artifacts. She is a spry woman who lets the journalist aspect of her character sometimes get the best of her. Much like Rachel in The Amber Room, Lily travels across the globe searching for answers, only to get more than she bargained for.
After The Auction:
While attending an auction for work, Lily Kovner is shocked to see a Sedar plate on the auction table. What's special about this plate? It is the plate that was stolen from her family home by Nazi soldiers. Lily embarks on a quest to not only get the plate back but also find justice even if that means she needs to travel to various continents to find it. She and her family and friends are shaken once Lily begins to received threatening notes and phone calls. Even though a woman who was aiding in the search is found dead, Lily continues her search. Along the way Lily reconnects with long lost family, begins a love affair, and learns more about the looting of Jewish artifacts and what happened afterwards.
From the very beginning, I was engrossed in this story. I have always been a sucker for stories dealing with the Holocaust, even if they are fiction. I found Lily's story to be fascinating and hung on every twist and turn. Frank included surprises you didn't expect, even if you expected it to happen, you were still surprised. She created a character in Lily that readers feel immense compassion for, and are able to feel each emotion she goes through during the course of her quest. I have heard and read stories about the Holocaust and survivors etc, but nothing about the looting and recovery of art/artifacts. The plot was well designed and unfolded wonderfully; it kept you interested all the way through. There was not one point where I wondered when the story would climax, everything built up perfectly.
The Lost Torah of Shanghai:
The Lost Torah of Shanghai takes place about a year after After The Auction lets off. Ruth, Lily's cousin, learns a valuable Torah her family protected has been stolen. She contacts Lily and Simon to help her solve the mystery of who stole it and why. Once again Lily travels across the world in search of this Torah. Just as the year before, she is plague with threatening letters and phone calls trying to sway her from finding this artifact.
There are a lot of the same elements between the two books. In both she is threatened in somewhat the same manner (phones calls, notes), a relative is revealed, family history is discovered, even someone related to the search is murdered again. While there are the same elements, it is done differently and presented in a different way. It becomes new in the second book. I found the history behind the different types of Jewish heritage very interesting and found myself wanting to research them to learn more for myself. Both novels holds the readers attention and captivates them through each novel.
Linda did an exquisite job with dialogue, descriptions, character development. We have a strong, independent woman in Lily, her independence almost becomes a fault as she doesn't let others assist or protect her. A woman who feels she can take care of herself and hold her own against threats, which she does. Most strong characters are younger, but we see a 60 something year old woman fighting off assailants, highly intelligent and resourceful. She is an amazing character. In the second book: Lost Torah of Shanghai, we see her evolve, display vulnerability, and reveal aspects of herself we didn't see in the first book. Throughout Lost Torah, Lily is referred to as the Jewish Miss Marple; a slight nod to the Agatha Christi character, but I am not sure if I would compare these two books to the Agatha Christi series.
Simon's character, I wanted so much more from. He held a lot of mystery and intrigued, but wasn't used as much as I would have expected, especially in the second book. The first he was Lily's love interest, and while he remains the love interest, he doesn't seem to have a bigger role than a little fluff with an argument or moments of agreement with Lily. The same with Ruth, while it is her family the story deals with, she is not a major character in the story. I expected her to be almost like a side-kick in this story but she fell to the background.
I highly enjoyed reading both books, I devoured them within a day that I started reading them. I couldn't get enough of the story. So much in both novels were interesting that I wanted to look up afterwards to learn more about such as the Kindertransport and the different Jewish heritages. Both novels spark a renewed interest in history for me.