Regular readers will note that some of my favorite books are historicals, and Justine Saracen has been one of my favorite authors since Sarah, Son of God, so I have been looking forward to The Sniper’s Kiss. I was not disappointed, finding her latest to be on an equal footing with The Witch of Stalingrad. Although The Sniper’s Kiss is similar to Stalingrad, some very important differences can be discerned. The commonality, of course, is that they’re both richly textured historical romances.
Russian immigrant Mia finds a new life in America, culminating in her working as a translator in FDR’s wartime White House, an intimate of the likes of Harry Hopkins, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, and Franklin Roosevelt himself. On an official function, she is taken by Alexia, a young blonde woman guarding Stalin. Soon, a quick, tipsy kiss bonds them so tightly, Mia’s kidnapping by a Russian official, Alexia’s sniper duties, imprisonment, starvation, privation, mistaken identity, blackmail, and betrayal can’t break them apart.
If you’ve read Saracen before, she’s at her finest here. Her action sequences pop, her plots are twisty, and she loves to put her heroines in the most dire of circumstances and extract them slowly. The biggest difference here is that there seems to be more historical incidents here than in other of her books. I may be wrong in the comparison, but it also seems as if her Roosevelt is more avuncular than other renderings I’ve read. Nevertheless, her treatment of Eleanor and Lorena is sensitive and nuanced.
The only minor quibble I’d have is the inclusion of a somewhat stilted blackmail plot involving Mia’s father that begins the book. It’s of minor importance even later and could have been dispensed with. While it doesn’t detract from the whole, neither does it add much to it. By the time the major action got underway, that small subplot got lost in the larger shuffle.
Be that as it may, The Sniper’s Kiss is prime Saracen–detailed and meticulously researched, yet never feels anything other than contemporary. A great follow-up, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler