Feature

Also of interest…in real-life international intrigue

America’s Great Game; Vanished; Priscilla; Red Fortress

America’s Great Game
by Hugh Wilford (Basic, $30)
No wonder the U.S. has an uneven reputation in the Middle East, said Alan Cate in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Historian Hugh Wilford’s “lively, informative study” of America’s post–World War II diplomacy and espionage efforts in the region replays plenty of ill-considered escapades. In focusing on the “largely counterproductive, if not disastrous” exploits of three brash U.S. agents—including two of Teddy Roosevelt’s grandsons—Wilford offers a primer on the consequences of hubris.

Vanished
by Wil S. Hylton (Riverhead, $28)
Wil Hylton’s tale about the search for 11 lost World War II airmen is “a remarkable achievement,” said John B. Saul in The Seattle Times. Blending military history with intimate personal dramas, Hylton connects readers with the hope that long sustained the soldiers’ families, then makes the search come alive by focusing on a biotech magnate who funded the hunt. We hear too much about the technical challenges of underwater searches, yet Vanished engages a reader “to the last page.”

Priscilla
by Nicholas Shakespeare (Harper, $28)
To young Nicholas Shakespeare, his Aunt Priscilla was a living legend, said Anna Shapiro in The New York Times. In this sometimes sensational biography of an Englishwoman who married into French royalty and survived internment in a Nazi camp, the British novelist uses a trove of archived writings to pick apart the mystery of his glamorous forebear. Though the truth about how she survived turns out to be less inspiring than the myth, that truth is arguably more touching.

Red Fortress
by Catherine Merridale (Metropolitan, $35)
Catherine Merridale’s deep-dive portrait of the Kremlin could serve beautifully as a single-volume chronicle of Russian culture “from the dawn of recorded history to the arrival of Vladimir Putin,” said Edward Lucas in The Wall Street Journal. Untangling the facts about Moscow’s greatest landmark isn’t easy, but Merridale “does a brilliant job of piecing together the clues of the past” as she shows us why the 500-year-old complex is an object of both ridicule and national pride.

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