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The Assassins Gallery

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Overview

New Year’s Eve, 1945. The assassin steps out of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of a raging nor’easter. Cool and efficient, she’s a weapon of war superbly trained in the ancient arts of subterfuge and murder. And even though she’s outnumbered, she’s got one major advantage: No one knows she’s coming.

Professor Mikhal Lammeck’s specialty is the history and weaponry of assassins. But even Lammeck is caught off guard when the Secret Service urgently requests his help: A gruesome ...

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The Assassins Gallery

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Overview

New Year’s Eve, 1945. The assassin steps out of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of a raging nor’easter. Cool and efficient, she’s a weapon of war superbly trained in the ancient arts of subterfuge and murder. And even though she’s outnumbered, she’s got one major advantage: No one knows she’s coming.

Professor Mikhal Lammeck’s specialty is the history and weaponry of assassins. But even Lammeck is caught off guard when the Secret Service urgently requests his help: A gruesome double murder and suicide in Massachusetts has set off alarm bells. It’s only a hunch, but all too soon Lammeck suspects the unthinkable.

In the waning days of the war, someone wants one last shot to alter history. An assassin is headed to Washington, D.C., to kill the most important soldier of them all: the U.S. commander in chief. As Lammeck and a killer at the top of her profession circle the streets of the capital in the hunt for FDR, one of them will attempt to kill the world’s most powerful man; the other, to save him. And between them, for an instant, history will hang in the balance. . . .

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  • David L. Robbins
    David L. Robbins  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Provide[s] thriller readers with one of their best reads of the year.... The powerful climax deserves the term 'heart-stopping.'"—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Ingenious.... A solid, satisfying treat for the armchair historian."—Kirkus Reviews

"An exciting thriller that rings so true it's difficult to tell where fact ends and fiction begins. Robbins is a master—at the top of his game with this one."—Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Templar Legacy

"If you read one book this year, make it The Assassins Gallery. Mesmerizing plotting, characters you'll never forget, and a wealth of invaluable historical seasoning that make you wonder ... did it actually happen this way? Only one word will do to describe this novel: masterpiece."—Brian Haig, bestselling author of Man in the Middle

"Nobody is better than David L. Robbins at making yesterday feel like today and fiction feel like fact. This is his most audacious book yet and probably his best."—Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of One Shot

"An absolutely sensational historical thriller—with an ending so shocking that I literally jumped up out of my chair!"–Max Byrd, author of Grant

Publishers Weekly
Set in 1945 near the end of WWII, Robbins's daring thriller opens with a brutal, brilliantly described double murder on the beach near Newburyport, Mass. From that scene to the end of the novel, the author's sure-handed control of his material never lets up, aided by his clear focus on the killer, a woman named "Judith," and the man assigned to solve the murders, professor Mikhal Lammeck, an expert in the methods of assassins. As Lammeck's investigations take him up and down the East Coast and, increasingly, to Washington, D.C., he comes to realize that someone may be trying to assassinate President Roosevelt. Robbins (War of the Rats) has an uncanny ability to provide just the right amount of historical detail without overwhelming the plot. This talent, coupled with superior characterization and a masterful, direct writing style will provide thriller lovers with one of their best reads of the year. The powerful climax deserves the term "heart-stopping." (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
What if an assassin had targeted President Roosevelt as World War II powers down, and what if the only way the expert called in to help can thwart said cutthroat is to pretend to be after the President himself? Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Robbins (Liberation Road, 2005, etc.) again concocts an ingenious suspense thriller around the momentous events of WWII. This time, a foreign assassin stalks President Roosevelt. On New Year's morning, 1945, two civilians patrolling the shoreline are killed on the beach of Newburyport, Mass. Secret Service agent "Dag" Nabbit appeals for help in solving the case from his former professor Mikhal Lammeck, an American historian currently training teams of men in Scotland for clandestine activities behind enemy lines. In his spare time, Lammeck ponders the fascinating question of whether history is made by people or by events. The Newburyport murders, he learns, were committed using a 12th-century knife belonging to a Middle Eastern cult that fought the Templars during the Crusades. This tells Lammeck, whose expertise includes familiarity with Marco Polo's diaries, that the killer is probably a highly trained, cold-blooded master of open-hand combat and poisons. In fact, that's a very good description of "Judith," a Persian-born woman trained in American schools and now passing as an innocent New Orleans black girl looking for work in Washington, D.C. Judith executes rigorous stylized exercises in her room at night, smokes hashish and murders innocent people close to her without a trace of remorse. Lammeck tracks his target by waiting for her; he's concluded that he's bound to run into the assassin if he sticks close to FDR, at a low ebb of public esteem in 1945 and considered by many to be an intolerable despot. Robbins manages some tricky historical sleight-of-hand by placing Judith on the domestic staff of Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, Roosevelt's former mistress, whom he began to see again inhis last months. Who has hired her to kill the president? The answer is not straightforward in a novel unafraid to tackle some big ideas. A solid, satisfying treat for the armchair historian.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553588217
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/26/2007
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 843,287
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.95 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David L. Robbins is the bestselling author of War of the Rats, Liberation Road, Last Citadel, Scorched Earth, The End of War, and Souls to Keep. He divides his time among Richmond, Boston, and his sailboat.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

January 1, 1945 Newburyport, Massachusetts

Five hundred yards from the beach, a gloved hand choked the outboard motor. Six black-clad men took up silent oars. They rowed toward shore, urging the raft through whitecaps with a strong wind at their backs. Two hundred yards out, where the breakers began to build, Judith in her wetsuit slid, practiced and liquid, over the side.

She said nothing to the six and they did not speak to her. She merely sucked in breath at the bite of the icy water through her rubber sheath, then pushed off from the raft. The boat eased away. She turned to kick for shore. Behind her, slaps of water against the raft faded beneath the wind.

Judith spit saltwater. The immense cold clawed her cheeks and stung through the wetsuit. She kept her arms wrapped to her chest, letting the suit and the knapsack and her fins keep her buoyant in the surging surf.

A hundred yards from shore, Judith lowered her legs to float upright. A wave boosted her. At its crest she took a quick look at the beach under a veiled quarter moon. The coming storm flung foam off the whitecaps, a rabid water. She lifted the dive mask from her eyes to see better. She sank into a trough but another, taller roller swept in fast. Judith scanned the dark coastline. She saw nothing but vacant sand flats. No light glowed from the blacked-out town four miles beyond.

She lowered her mask. Kicking the last hundred yards to the shore, she went numb.

“It’s sure blowin’ stink,” she said.

With a hand on his belly, the man agreed. Spray from the surf speckled the windshield of his pickup truck parked on the packed sand of Plum Island.

“Nor’easter.” He pointed out the direction of the wind to the woman on the seat beside him.

“Forecast called for it,” she replied. “Gonna be a bitch of a New Year’s Day.”

“Yeah, happy New Year’s.”

“You, too.”

The two leaned across the seat to the center and kissed lightly. He had to angle down because she was short. He patted her leg when he straightened.

“What time you got?” she asked.

He dug under his cuff for his watch. “We’re getting here a little late. We left the party a little before two. So I figure it’s . . . yep, two-ten.”

“What do you think?”

“I think it’s blowin’ stink, like you said. You dressed warm enough? You got a couple sweaters under them oilskins?”

“Yeah, but geez. Look at it. It’s cold as a well-digger’s ass out there. Why we gotta be so gung ho all of a sudden? Who’s gonna invade Newburyport?”

“Honestly, Bonny, don’t start. You and me got the graveyard shift this week. You knew that. Take the good with the bad, that’s how it goes.”

“Yeah, but . . .” She raised a hand at the crashing surf out in the dim light, water bashing the sand so hard that mist spewed. The pickup rocked a little with the wind, but it might have been Otto’s weight as he shifted to face her.

“This is what we volunteered for,” he said. “Guarding the coastline. Think about the boys in uniform, they’re doin’ tougher shit than this all the time. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Look, I understand we been kind of slack about this Civil Defense thing. All of us, the whole town. But I been doing a lot of thinking since that Battle of the Bulge started over in Belgium. You don’t think our boys are cold over there?”

She spread her hands.

“Huh?” he prodded. “You think?”

“Yeah, but look at this.”

“I am lookin’ at it, Bonny. And I think it’s time we started doin’ our jobs here. That’s all I’m saying.”

“But Otto, geez Louise. Nobody’s doin’ nothing in this weather. You think the Germans are coming tonight? They’re not gonna, okay? You and me are the only ones out in this.”

“And that’s a good thing. Come on, gimme another kiss. It’ll warm you up.”

“You. All you think about.”

“Is you. Come on.”

With a sigh, she considered him. “Alright. C’mere.” She gave him more than a peck.

“Yeah, thatta girl,” he said, pulling back to sit straight again. His gut extended far enough to rub the steering wheel. “Hey.”

She wrinkled her nose at him, feigning annoyance that he wanted to get out of the pickup into this wintry, blustery night.

“What?” she asked.

“Look, I gotta ask. You don’t think Arnold knows, does he? He was acting kind of weird yesterday when he came in the store. And tonight, at the party.”

“Naw. Arnold’s always weird. He still thinks I’m crazy for joinin’ the C.D. What the hell. I told him he should join, too, you know, do somethin’. But he just goes to work and comes home and sits with his damn stamp collection. All night. Every weekend. Unless he’s fishing. I swear to God.”

She grimaced, exasperated with the image of her husband. Slothful, skinny, only thinks about himself and his postage stamps.

“Okay,” she said, fighting her temper, “okay, I won’t do that. He’s not your problem. He ain’t here right now. Just you and me, right?”

The big man had tilted the back of his head against the window, away from her. He watched while she took hold of herself.

“Okay,” he said. “Look, you stay in the truck a little while, calm down. I’ll make one trip down to the Rowley line, then come get you. How’s that? Okay? You stay here, baby.”

“You gonna be warm enough?”

“I’m fine,” he chortled, thumping his stomach. “I got my winter fat on me. Be back in about an hour. I got some schnapps in the glove compartment there. Have a snort. What the hey, it’s New Year’s, right?”

“Right. You’re a good man, Otto.”

“I try, baby. So, I’ll be back. You bundle up. I’ll leave the keys, case you want to run the heater some.”

He squeezed her knee before opening the car door. He moved fast into the blowing chill to shut the door quickly. With a gloved fist he thumped the hood, then lifted his hand in a wave.

Inside the cab, Bonny watched him walk up the beach. Moonlight lay across his broad back. He soon slipped it and stepped into the dark.

When he had disappeared, she pushed the starter to crank the engine and run the heater full blast. She took his bottle from the glove compartment for a single, long pull. She put the bottle away, and stared straight out to sea.

On hands and knees, Judith crawled over the last film of bubbles and saltwater. On dry sand, she dropped to her stomach. Her skin was so frozen she did not feel the grit of the beach against her cheek. She closed her eyes and caught her breath, angry at the frigid water but glad of the storm which blew her ashore; without the waves sweeping her forward, she might not have made it.

Inside her rubber suit she wriggled finger and toes; they felt like cadaver’s digits. She hacked up a slime of mucous and salt, barely lifting her face to spit. Then she opened her eyes and rolled to her back, finding the knapsack there. She sat up and shrugged the straps from her shoulders.

The pack was waterproof and difficult to pry open with clumsy hands inside thick gloves. With her teeth, she gripped one glove to pull it off and flexed her bare hand to flush blood to her fingers. The second glove came off with trouble, too. She kicked the fins from her feet and hurried with the knapsack. The soaked wetsuit sapped her body’s remaining warmth on this icy beach. Her hands trembled. She needed dry clothes, quickly.

The twin zippers of the pack slid reluctantly. Judith pinched the grips by sight, not by feel; her fingertips relayed nothing. The top item was a black wool watch cap. She peeled the hood of the wetsuit off her head, rubbed her ears hard to animate them, then tugged on the cap, tucking her wet hair under it. Her eyes probed the darkness and mist. She’d made landfall right on target. The beach road should be about ninety yards north from where she knelt.

Judith hauled down the zipper of her wetsuit. She spread apart the wetsuit from her naked chest, molting the rubber off her shoulders and arms. The thin moonlight diluted her coffee skin to a milky pallor. Her breasts and sternum prickled. From the pack she plucked a flannel long-john top and a thick wool fisherman’s sweater. She brushed sand from her buttocks, skimming the hard, cold muscles there, then shoved her legs into the bottom of the long johns and a pair of oilskin pants, cinching the waist. Using socks to swipe sand from her feet, she sensed nothing of her toes. The laces of her boots were tied badly, in a rush. A dark peacoat unfolded out of the bag, and Judith was dressed like a New England lobsterman. She rolled her wetsuit around the fins and mask to cram them into the satchel. She was ready to move off the beach. The last item taken out of the pack was a long, sheathed blade. She tucked this in a boot, then covered the haft with her trouser leg.

Judith looked north and south. At her back, breakers unfurled and pounded, wind drove froth and sand; snow would fall out of this storm before morning. Intelligence stated that this part of the beach, a mile south of the Coast Guard station and summer homes of Joppa, near the head of the Plum Island road, would be clear for fifty minutes following every hour dusk to dawn. The report said the townspeople guarded their territory sloppily, like a community hobby.

Judith stood, warm now, and limber.

She took three steps and did not see or hear the idling truck before the headlights nailed her.

Bonny muttered, “Who the hell . . .?”

The figure caught in the headlights stopped. The guy just popped up out of the sand, maybe forty yards straight ahead down at the water’s edge. How could Otto have missed him, just standing there?

And what the hell was the guy doing out in this godforsaken weather? Watching the waves on a freezing New Year’s morning? Drunk?

The man started walking toward the truck. He didn’t look drunk, he strode erect. A little in a hurry. He had one hand up to his armpit, tucked in the strap of a sack or something on his back. Dressed like a fisherman but he was slender; those men tended to be thick, hard, and bearded. Besides, with the war on, all the young ones were gone. Bathed in the headlights, coming on, he seemed tan-skinned, maybe one of those Portuguese up from Gloucester.

“Son of a bitch,” Bonny grumbled to Otto, him and his do-the-job-for-the-boys-overseas bullshit. If he’d stayed right here in the warm truck, he’d be getting the chance, instead of leaving her alone to do it.

She opened the glove compartment. Losing sight of the stranger for seconds, she took one more pull on the schnapps. She screwed the cap back on, growing nervous, and tossed the bottle on the seat.

“Okay,” she breathed. “Okay.”

Without taking her eyes off the advancing stranger, she reached her arm over the seat, down into the space behind. She rattled her hand through trash, oil cans, rags, and coffee mugs until she found what she was looking for, a tire iron. She grabbed it.

Bonny clapped it once into her palm, satisfied it had enough heft. She left the motor running, the headlamps on, and got out of the truck.

“Can I help you?” she called the moment her boots were on the sand, even before she slammed the truck door. The wind blew her question back into her face. “Sir?” She shouted louder. “Can I help you?”

The figure, washed in the lights, walked closer, unconcerned. Bonny held the tire iron out where the fellow could see it. Maybe he didn’t speak English.

“Sir? You understand this is a restricted area after dark? There’s a curfew in effect.”

Bonny took a few strides to the stranger, to put herself in front of the lamps where she could be seen and appreciated as an authority figure with a weapon in her hands. The slender man stayed silent, raising a gloved hand in greeting. He smiled.

“I need you to stop right there, sir.”

He came ahead, waving, friendly but ignoring her command.

Bonny gripped the tire iron with both hands.

When the stranger was a dozen steps away from the truck and casting a long shadow on the beach, he held his position.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I did not hear you. The ocean.”

He had an accent. Bonny couldn’t place it. Probably one of the Portuguese.

“I said, sir, that this is a closed beach after dark. There’s a curfew. I need to see some identification.” Bonny enunciated clearly. The guy must be stupid and foreign since he wasn’t drunk.

The stranger screwed up his face. It was a lean face on a tall frame. He raised his hand to his dark cap. He pulled off the hat and black hair tumbled to his shoulders.

Her shoulders.

Bonny eased her grip on the tire iron.

“Honey, what are you doin’ out here like this? It’s the middle of the damn night in a damn storm. Where you from?”

The woman shrugged, hat in hand. “I had a fight, with my husband. He tried to hit me. I took a walk, that was all.”

The accent was French-like. Some kind of European, anyway. The woman had blue eyes, odd to go with that skin.

“I was here, just here.” She pointed off to the water’s edge. “Sitting when you drove up.”

No, you weren’t, Bonny thought. Otto would’ve seen you, missy.

“Let me see some ID.” Bonny’s right fist closed again around the base of the tire iron, the knobby end in her left palm. She didn’t know and couldn’t guess who or what this woman was, or what her business was out here in a restricted area with a damn nor’easter on its way in the dark. Or how she got here. But all that would be hashed out before this gal walked on.

“Yes, yes,” the woman answered eagerly. “I have here.”

She dug into her peacoat for a slip of paper, then held it out. Bonny stayed where she was, making the woman step up to hand it over.

Bonny raised the slip to the headlights. A Massachusetts driver’s license, made out to Arcadia Figueroa of Newburyport. On East Boylston Street.

This woman wearing a New England waterman’s clothes carried a lot of unanswered questions about her. But one thing Bonny was certain of: This gal was not living on East Boylston Street. Not with that hair and that smile and those blue eyes. Bonny would know. Every married woman in Newburyport, and maybe Ipswich and Rockport, would know if Arcadia Figueroa lived anywhere near their husbands.

Bonny returned the driver’s license. The black leather of the glove the woman extended was thin, not made for warmth, not waterproof, not fit for hauling lobster pots and nets.

“How long you lived on Boylston?”

“A week.”

Long enough to get yourself a driver’s license, though you walked out here four miles from town in wicked cold.

“What’s in the knapsack?”

The woman dropped the bag from her shoulder, settling it between her boots.

“I thought I would leave my husband. I packed clothes. Is all.”

“Let me see.”

The woman cocked her head. Her eyes flickered.

“Just let me go my way.” Her voice had changed, withdrawing something.

“Can’t do that, honey.”

“Why do you want to look in my bag?”

The accent was gone.

Bonny stared at her, lit up in the headlights. The first snowflakes of the year tumbled into the beams.

“I don’t know. The boys over in Belgium, I guess.”

The woman shook her head. She did not understand. Bonny almost did not.

Bonny stood as firm as she could, not tall but dutiful. She held the tire iron ready, while the mystery woman kneeled to her satchel in the sand.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2006

    Robbins does it again

    Before reading The Assassins Gallery, by David L. Robbins, I was quite a bit down on reading anything new. It seems that finding a book with any level of depth or quality penmanship these days is a pursuit not too easily accomplished. David Robbins has managed, in one book, to restore my faith and ressurrect my hunt for books (not written a century before) worth my time and effort. I've drilled through all of his previous books, loved them all, but still (due to the previously mentioned angst) approached The Assassins Gallery with a measure of trepidity. Robbins excels in crafting fiction around fact, morphing verifiable history into a personal stroll through aspects of the past you may not, beforehand, have given a second look. In his previous novels, Robbins took us through various moments of World War II, specifically detailing the matters involved in the Eastern Front of Europe and the quest to capture Berlin. This time, we're off the warfront, back in the States and on the chase for an assassin believed to be targeting none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It's a chase against time and Mikhal Lammeck, an expert on assassins, has been given the task of hunting an assassin that has never been seen, never been confirmed, and to all in the government does not exist. From a small beach in New England to the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, Lammeck pursues the assassin the only way possible: He has to think, act, behave like and become an assassin himself. The action is swift, hitting you squarely in the first chapter and leaving you stuck to the pages throughout. When the action brings us to the story's climax, when you've finally taken that breath you've been holding since page one, Robbins lays out the biggest gamble of them all, found in the book's final pages. To simply say that Robbins is a skilled artisan is leaving much yet on the table. What makes The Assassins Gallery worth the read is his investment in character and research. History is a living, breathing, functioning character and is given as much respect and leeway as any character in the book. You invest yourself in them all, feel what they feel, but are left with more, historically speaking, than absorbing one of the best books of the year. You learn and grow with a history you never knew existed and that--if there were no other reason--is why you will run to tell everybody about The Assassin's Gallery. Was there truly a plot to kill FDR? Did he really die of an aneurism at Warm Springs as history tells us? Or did the assassin succeed and alter the course of a nation's war?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2006

    An Historical Thriller with teeth!

    THE ASSASSINS GALLERY by David Robbins was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I loved the idea of learning while wondering what would happen next. The plotting and planning of the assassin, and the strategy and thought processes of the professor were spectacular. I felt that I was right there in the city of Washington DC also. The twists and turns were so real and the surprises were great. Even the chase scene was done well in print rather than needing the big screen. I live in the DC area so I can also say that the atmosphere of the place and feelings of the area were wonderfully portrayed. What I liked best is that Robbins did not need to stray to unknown and needlessly incorrect facts to keep the suspense first rate!!!! He also did not need to overplay the blood and gore to make his point of the horrors of the killings. AND, politics of today did not need to be the focus of this HISTORICAL thriller---he let those times speak for the interest that they were in and of themselves!! He has hooked me into reading more of his books.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2006

    fascinating historical thriller

    As the countdown ends 1944, Judith comes ashore from the freezing water off Newburyport, Massachusetts into a Nor¿easter. When a two-person civilian patrol stops her on the beach, Judith tries a bluff, but when that fails she kills them. Judith cannot find her murder weapon, a twelfth century knife belonging to enemies of the Templars during the Crusades. Still the enemy agent knows stealth remains her major weapon so no one must know who came ashore. The murders on the beach upset the Secret Service, who assume a plot against President Roosevelt by unknown assassins. Agent Nabbit obtains the help of his former history professor Mikhal Lammeck, who concludes by the murder weapon used that the killer is a professional who will slay anyone remotely in his or her way. He assumes like Dag that FDR is the target. So he waits patiently in DC for the assassin¿s arrival, not realizing a female is the cold blooded killer and that she is already on the staff of Roosevelt's mistress Lucy Mercer Rutherford, but beyond stopping the assassin Lammeck wonders who hired her. --- David L. Robbins provides a fascinating historical thriller that uses an electrifying plot to enable the audience to look deeply at 1945 DC. The story line is action-packed so that the thriller crowd will sit on edge throughout, but also includes interesting tidbits. For instance many people by his fourth term thought Roosevelt was a benevolent dictator whose popularity was waning as the war seemed endless, but feared switching administrations (when will we begin hearing the noise to change the twenty-second amendment?). Lammeck is a well-rounded hero struggling to stop an assassination and uncover a conspiracy, but also relaxes by exploring his favorite subject, what is history, which ultimately is the underlying theme of this delightful thriller. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2006

    This Summer's Must-Read

    David Robbins just keeps getting better! Once again, he handles a historical novel with the precision of a surgeon and the artisty of a poet. He has created wonderful and totally believeable characters which he reveals an inch at a time and just enough to keep the reader wanting more. Action-packed and at the same time intelligent, this book will appeal to readers of all generes.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2011

    one of the best books i have read in a long time!

    excellent book. enjoyed every page!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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