McConnell, Thomas. The Wooden King. Spartanburg: Hub City Press, 2018. 328p. ISBN 978-1-938235-37-5. $18 pb with French Flaps. Fiction

In 1939, after the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, history professor Viktor Trn loses his job. Over the next six years, as the devastation of war grows, he struggles to save his family—hectoring wife Alena, who would just as soon he disappear; beloved Aleks, a timid boy who needs protection from bullies; and crusty father-in-law Miroslav. A pacifist at heart, Viktor seems indifferent to not only his country's plight but his crumbling marriage. Yet as the war draws to a close, he's forced to risk his life, sucked first into helping the Czech Resistance, then serving the Germans at gunpoint in a trenching brigade, and, finally, as he tries to make his way home across a devastated city, dodging resistance fighters, Nazis, and the advancing Russians. McConnell shines in re-creating the stifled life of Czechs under the Occupation. Despite Viktor's faults, he's a sympathetic and well-delineated character, absorbing as best he can the blows of fate. VERDICT Drama builds from start to finish with a conclusion that is particularly powerful. This debut will appeal to readers of Joseph Kanon, Olen Steinhauer, or Philip Kerr.

Library Journal, 143, no. 3 (February 15, 2018).

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