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Book Review: Hitler’s Silver Box by Allen Malnak

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Hitler’s Silver Box is a compelling, exciting thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.

In a two-story Georgian house in one of Chicago’s affluent suburbs, Max Bloomberg, an old bookseller, is brutally killed. Before murdering him, the killers burn his holy books and ask him for ‘the box.’ The old man refuses to give them any information. However, unbeknown to them, he’s left his secret journal to his nephew.

Enters Dr. Bruce Starkman, Chief ER Resident at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital.  Bruce is crushed when he learns about his beloved uncle’s unexpected murder. Although Bruce would like to accept the murder as an unfortunate turn of fate, he soon becomes suspicious. Why was Uncle Max, an orthodox Jew, cremated? Uncle Max would never have allowed cremation. Why was his bookstore vandalized? And why is a black Chevy following Bruce lately? The situation gets more complicated when he inherits a large sum of money and property from his uncle, suddenly making him a suspect.

Thus begins Bruce’s search for the journal, and once he discovers it, the reader is transported to 1945 when Max was 23 years old and a prisoner at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Tension escalates, innocent people are killed, and together with Miriam, a beautiful and extremely smart Israeli woman with military training, Bruce travels to Paris and the Czech Republic. It quickly becomes evident to Bruce that he must outwit the neo-Nazis and find the silver box his uncle built — and the secret document hidden within it — if he is to save the world from an imminent Nazi resurgence.

The premise is ambitious, the stakes are high. Hitler’s Silver Box is a well-written novel full of non-stop action and suspense. The story is written from multiple points of view separated by chapters. From the beginning, I was hooked. The pace is quick and the scenes full of tension. There’s a lot of dialogue and little exposition, thus propelling the action further. I especially found Max’s journal engrossing and compelling, distressing and shocking. The horror of Max’s story touched me at a profound level. It is one of those tales not easily forgotten. The journal adds depth and another dimension to the book. I also liked how the voice, pace, and tone in the journal are different from the rest of the novel. The protagonist, Bruce Starkman, is sympathetic and I really enjoyed all his ‘medical’ insights; it’s obvious the author is a medical doctor himself. Miriam, with her quick tongue, adds a lot of color and spunk to the scenes and I wish she had appeared much earlier in the story. I didn’t care much about Bruce’s ex-girlfriend, who’s quite active in the beginning, though keeping in mind what happens to her, I suspect why the author didn’t make her too likable.

In short, Hitler’s Silver Box is a fast-moving, entertaining read and one of those books that would make a good film. Recommended. 

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.