Forgiving Mariela Camacho: A Kurchenko & Gonzalves Mystery, Book 3 of a series
by A.J. Sidransky
Black Opal Books 2021
When a tenant reports a terrible odor coming from apartment 7-F, detectives Kurchenko and Gonzalves know it can only mean one thing: a dead body. But despite all of their training and experience dealing with crime on New York City’s streets, the detectives aren’t prepared for what they are about to encounter.
Sidranky’s first book in this three-part series, Forgiving Maximo Rothman, (reviewed by this writer on December 22, 2020), introduced us to Maximo: his harrowing escape out of Nazi Europe, life as a refugee in the Dominican Republic, and the horrific event that forces him to flee to New York City. In book two, Forgiving Stephen Redmond, (see my review of January 22, 2021), Stephen grapples with his feelings toward his father Maximo, his own dark past, and eventual self-discovery.
In this third and final book of the series, Forgiving Mariela Camacho, Kurchenko and Gonzalves take center stage as they discover how closely their Russian and Dominican lives intersect. Now, more than ever, their partnership will be tested and challenged. How well do they really know each other? How deep is their trust in the other? Solving the case and saving the lives of those they love will depend on how well they can answer these questions.
In Forgiving Mariela Camacho, the most powerful of the three novels, Sidransky weaves a tale of passionate once-in-a-life-time-love, deep-rooted hate, the self-debasement dire circumstances impose upon the most pure and, above all, how essential forgiveness is to the human heart.
The author expertly connects the lives of the seemingly disparate characters and safely carries us to a masterful and satisfying conclusion: the redeeming power of love.
As one of the characters states, “We each have our own destiny.” Sidransky’s novel will make you ask, “What is mine?”
Join us next month on March 22nd for an interview with A.J. Sidransky. You don’t want to miss it!
Forgiving Stephen Redmond: A Kurchenko & Gonzalves Mystery, Book 2 of a series
By A.J. Sidransky
Black Opal Books 2021
Stephen Redmond never understood his late father, Maximo Rothman, or the mysterious ‘other life’ he never spoke about. He considers that maybe, like the changing neighborhood, his dwindling religious community, and the old ways that are disappearing, he should let go of the past and move forward.
But when Detectives Kurchenko and Gonzalves arrive to discuss the dead body found sealed in the wall of a building his father co-owned, Stephen realizes that the past has a will of its own and an iron grip. Shaken by the news of such a gruesome discovery, and knocked off balance by a murky memory he often wondered whether it was real or imagined, Stephen drags himself back through the past forty years in search of the truth. But if and when he finds the truth, what will he do with it?
Sidranky’s first book in this series, Forgiving Maximo Rothman, (reviewed by this writer on December 22, 2020), introduced us to Stephen’s father Maximo: his harrowing escape out of Nazi Europe, life as a refugee in the Dominican Republic, the horrific event that forces him to flee to New York City, and his attempt at creating a better life for his son.
In this second novel, we find Maximo’s son coming to terms with his father’s secret life, and facing the buried ghosts of his own past actions, as he tries to heal the broken pieces of his heart in the hope of finding a peaceful and blessed life.
Forgiving Stephen Redmond is a moving and memorable mystery that touches on themes of the relationship between fathers and sons, confronting a past that won’t let go, guilt, love, learning how to forgive others, and above all, the importance of forgiving ourselves.
Forgiving Stephen Redmond will touch your heart!
Forgiving Maximo Rothman: A Kurchenko & Gonzalves Mystery, Book 1 of a series
by A.J. Sidransky
Black Opal Books 2020
Tasked with solving the homicide of Maximo Rothman, an elderly man in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, Detective Tolya Kurchenko is hard pressed to keep peace in the polarized community. The Jews, mourning the loss of one of their own, are demanding more protection. The arrest of Carlos, the young man who helped care for Maximo and now accused of his murder, elicits cries of protest from the Dominican residents.
Kurchenko’s gut tells him that Carlos is innocent. Who then had motive and opportunity?
The detective determines to learn everything he can about Max and the people in his life. For now, the possible suspects are a son, a daughter-in-law, a helpful neighbor, and Carlos.
Reading Max’s journal reveals his past. The bitter loss of his family. Escape from Nazi Europe. And life as a refugee in the Dominican Republic, until he runs afoul of the Dominican dictator Trujillo and is forced to flee to New York City. Moreover, Kurchenko gets a glimpse into Max’s heart: a man who has known danger, deep love, bitter loss, and anger at a God who does not help in times of anguish.
The search for the truth takes on a life of its own, and in the process, Kurchenko discovers a man … just like him. The experience forces him to confront his own past filled with loss, anger and fear. Kurchenko’s murder investigation simultaneously becomes a search for life as he attempts to reconcile with the past, revive the dead parts of his heart, and boldly reach out to lay hold of love.
Shortlisted by the National Jewish Book Awards for Outstanding Debut Fiction, Forgiving Maximo Rothman forges a compelling bond between past and present that transcends culture. For at every time and in every place one grapples with questions of identity, and responsibility for the lives and well-being of those around us and those in our care. Ultimately, in the words of Max, Sidransky’s novel reminds us that, “Life is too short to make enemies of those we love.”
See you next year, January 22, 2021!
Not What It Seems
Memories swirl in the air around my head.
Light flashes and flickers illuminating my thoughts.
Emotions spread a warm blanket over me and shield me
from the wind.
Joy dances around my feet.
Worries scurry away.
It seems I’m just raking leaves.
But I’m really counting my blessings, one by one.
See you next time on December 22nd!
Being a teenager is tough enough: trying to fit in, figuring out who you are and want to be, and finding your place in the world. Jasmine Price also has to deal with being alone most of the time because her mom works two jobs to make ends meet. Her dad? Well, he’s been serving in the military so long Jasmine’s afraid she might be forgetting what he looks like.
But things seem to be looking up. They have moved out of the Projects into a better neighborhood; their neighbor Bibi, a grandmotherly figure, provides the companionship and confidante Jasmine needs while her mother’s at work, and Jasmine has a good shot at making the basketball team at her new high school.
That is until she runs afoul of Nevaeh, the team captain, and her crew. The game plan is on: take Jasmine out.
Hard pressed to deal with the escalating attacks and violence against her, Jasmine confides in Bibi who offers a solution to all of her problems: Jackson, a pet chameleon from her native Tanzania. This magical creature speaks and can transform not only his colors, but also his size, and defends, to the death, those he has sworn to protect.
When Jasmine uses the chameleon’s powers, things spiral out of control. She even becomes a police suspect in another teen’s disappearance.
Jasmine learns that by her actions she must choose who she wants to be, and realizes that positive change starts with her. Now she wants to get rid of Jackson, but how?
My Friend Jackson is a unique and riveting story of the physical and emotional impact of bullying, and the consequences of one’s actions and choices to resolve conflicts that every teenager and adult can relate to. A great and compelling story!
See you next time on November 22nd!
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