Award-winning short story author M.L. Malcolm's makes her novel-length debut with a sweeping saga of one extraordinary man whose ride on fate's tides takes him from moneyed intellectual heights to desperate lows of compromised morality.
into searing poverty at the beginning of the twentieth century in a remote Hungarian barony, Leo Hoffman catches the attention of an idealistic teacher from Budapest who has volunteered two years of his life to educating the children of this backwater Magyar village. Jószsef Derkovits finds in ten-year-old Leo a remarkable facility for languages, and he manages to convince Leo's father to let the boy come to Budapest to further his education - but only after a life-altering sacrifice by Leo's older sister.
Leo's chameleon-like nature allows him not only to speak flawlessly in languages other than his native tongue. It permeates his very self, fueling an uncalculating charm of which he is nonetheless aware that is irresistible to most people he meets - especially women. This instinct paves the way for his seamless blending into the glittering nouveau-riche society of his adoptive family in Budapest - Jószsef Derkovits' brother Miksa and sister-in-law Erzsebet.
But World War I shreds the Jewish Derkovits family's fortunes, and the
Communist and subsequent Rumanian occupations, followed by the parceling out of
most of Hungary to her neighbors, shatters the lives of Leo's Budapest family.
The young man finds work as a concierge in a hotel catering to the many internationals angling for
control of the "Queen of the Danube," and it is through his connections there that he is drawn into a nationalist plot that goes awry when the true aim of the game is revealed as counterfeiting. Wanted for murder and theft, Leo flees to the last refuge of the desperate: 1920s Shanghai.
Thanks to a dubious connection he forges with an organized crime lord, Leo is able to carve out a prosperous place for himself in the sprawling dichotomy of Shanghai
- "the Whore of Asia" - freeing himself at last to send for the great love of his life. But between his never-ending debt to a powerful criminal and the ongoing battle between the Chinese and Japanese for control of Shangai, his burgeoning family is devastated once again.
Leo is left with a single option to remove his only child from harm's way, and his decision will scar them both deeply over the years of the Great Depression.
Silent Lies is the first book in this multi-generational saga set against a globe-spanning tapestry of the twentieth century. The chain of desperate choices in dangerous times made by M.L. Malcolm's deeply flawed protagonist ultimately imprison him in shackles born of his own imperfect morality, his fierce desire to protect his family, and the inescapable events of a world society in the grip of monumental upheaval.
Compared by some to the romans-fleuves of Susan Howatch and Jeffrey Archer, Silent Lies stands shoulder to shoulder with the most gripping and passionate tales of the last several decades.