Not unlike her main character, Himes is both a physician and a writer. Her debut novel reflects these two worlds, underscoring the necessity of artistry and imagination within the clinical application of objective science. Set during the Soviet famine of 1933, the story unfolds around Mikhail Bulgakov, a playwright and eponymous protagonist of the novel. Although struggling professionally and creatively under the Soviet censors, Mikhail finds an inexplicable fan in Joseph Stalin. While currying favor with the Soviet political elite, he is also being shadowed by Ilya Ivanovich, an agent of the secret police, for his association with Margarita, the mistress of his recently imprisoned friend. As Ilya’s interrogations of Margarita slowly evolve into affection, both men find themselves fighting for love and freedom within an oppressive system of order and discipline. VERDICT Drawing inspiration from Bulgakov’s novel, The Master and Margarita, unpublished in his lifetime, Himes pens a whirlwind tale of romance and intrigue that approximates, if not exceeds, the talents of one of Russia’s most heralded authors.