...a stylishly written and cunningly plotted Holocaust revenge thriller. Set in the 1960s, its gripping narrative of retribution moves to a tense and shattering conclusion. Combines the time frame of a Tarantino movie with the pace and detail of an early Freddie Forsyth novel.
This book is a powerful piece of work, tackling a notoriously tricky subject with courage and great depth of feeling. It is written in an eloquently compressed style which works very well and adds force and immediacy to the content. The story-telling is lean, gripping, and never boring - a model `good read'. All of the characters come across as complex, plausible individuals, and the author manages brilliantly the difficult feat of exploring moral and philosophical issues through their voices whilst keeping each of them convincingly in character. The main protagonist’s role and character are intriguing - the most elusive aspects of the book. An initial reading is that the tale is of a man who redeems his lack of courage through the act of seeking revenge on those who were involved in perpetrating atrocities on his aunt, sister and mother. But this is too simple. Michael's actions leave us with the possibility that aspects of the Holocaust still have powers to create moral contamination. This gives the book a powerful resonance - it is certainly not one that readers will just put down and forget.
Although I know so much about the Holocaust I still learnt something from it and I admire the way you presented it as an exciting story. You can imagine that I have always been concerned by the role of doctors in that period as well as in the influence of eugenics in the first part of the 20th century. Amongst doctors we have never ceased to discuss it and our successors are still at it.
Dr Ellis Douek
...brought to my attention aspects of the Shoah I had overlooked: Greed as the Nazi’s motivation rather than any ‘ideology’. The use the world scientific community made in the post-war years of the results of the SS ‘medical experiments’ in the camps, and that mind-blowing remark, “Knowledge cannot be unlearned.” Plus the impact of the Tragedy on religion - “In all other persecutions Jews could choose to convert. Here there was no way out.” ...Thank you for such a human, lively and deep panorama of those terrible years and their consequences.
Nicole Van De Ven
...a really good read with a strong plot and interesting characters. You also demonstrate a dazzling descriptive ability.
I read it in one stretch and then began again two days later...raises thorny questions about the nature of evil and the protagonist’s sense of his Jewishness as opposed to the Judaism from which he feels utterly disconnected.
The mix of intrigue, excitement and a powerful narrative combine to make a very moving and gripping story. Highly recommended.
Great to read a book about the Holocaust that is original and intriguing. The author has a unique style of writing that seems to build suspense and emotion without being obvious.
There can be no doubt that you have achieved a work which could easily be a best-seller, and I would be very surprised if it did not make the big screen.
As experienced readers of thrillers will know it is not uncommon for such stories, having
started well, to run out of steam early in the narrative, and lose the interest of the reader long before the story limps to a predictable closure. Not so with Toxic Distortions. Having taken us just
halfway past the story, with our interest still intact. In what is to come the pace of the narrative quickens yet further keeping the elements of tension high right until the end of the
But then Toxic Distortions is different from the average detective story. What makes it different is its hero's profound preoccupation with the moral implications of his actions. Thus we find that every action Michael is about to take is first weighed up in his mind in terms of his dual responsibilities as a Jew and a moral individual. His resulting thoughts add an extra dimension of ideas to the novel.
The story begins as a sensitively told account of Michael, as a small boy, fortuitously saved from death during the Holocaust, bereft of his own family, growing into a lonely adolescent and emerging as an introverted young man at the time we meet him. So far the novel could be taken as simply a classical story of an individual's psychological development proceeds towards its promise of becoming a full-fledged thriller, the figure of Michael, earlier portrayed as a tentative, indecisive youth, grows into the thriller's undoubted heroic protagonist.
But in order for this change to occur believably, the author chooses a new and much tougher reality, totally in contrast to the one portrayed hitherto. Gone is the lyrical portrayal of London landscapes and the sensitive evocation of Michael's inner life. Instead we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of a new, dark reality, face to face with a series of brutally criminal acts, committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust but whose slimy tentacles eventually reach into Michael's civilized existence with shattering effect.
At its core Teddy Goldstein's book seeks to challenge a tenet of Judaism that simply does not pass the test of modernity, that Jews died in the Holocaust to sanctify the name of God. Jews recite during the High Holydays in Our Father Our King, "We do this for those killed in Your Holy Name." Who dies for this reason? Believing people? Jews, Muslims and Christians? Even now people have been singled out for their faith, in Nairobi, or having been asked their faith, their lives were taken. It must surely be anathema, whether now or in the past or in the future, that people die for their faith. But dying to bless, make holy, the name of a deity is beyond anathema. Toxic Distortions confronts the reader with this issue. How can any death be condoned because it sanctifies a God.
With a complex, intricate plot and deeply troubled main character, readers of TOXIC DISTORTIONS should expect an intense and in places, shocking ride. The year is 1965, and Dr. Michael Turner, saved from the horrors of the concentration camps while still a child, receives a lawyer’s letter leading him to his beautiful but now horribly disfigured Aunt Mathilde. Although Mathilde is only 36 years old, she has the appearance and demeanor of a woman twice her age, dying slowly from the complications due to medical experiments in the camps.
Thus begins a trip down the slippery slope of revenge as Michael begins to unravel the skein that will lead to her Nazi tormentors – also physicians. Michael wrestles with questions of faith, of the Hippocratic Oath, even of right and wrong. After all, he is supposed to save lives yet he still wants to destroy those who did the same to his family and loved ones.
At certain points, the story line may not be as accessible as some readers would like, such as with Michael’s mother’s diary which perhaps should take more of a central role in explaining how the various pieces of the plot fit together. Yet this incredibly engrossing book addresses vital questions about a time that should never be forgotten.
The Writer's Digest Team