"Hardy masterfully depicts how the weight of family history can accumulate over successive generations, and how such a legacy can be either a guiding compass or an oppressive yoke. He also captures the barbarous reality of war.A sensitively rendered story about the impact of the past on the future, and about the morally clarifying effects of war."– Kirkus Reviews
Hardy (When Brothers Meet, 2017, etc.) tells the story of a small, baseball-loving town in Pennsylvania as it prepares for the annual league championship game—but the rivalry between two teams goes much deeper than friendly competition.
Alex Sardinski, the chief loan officer at the only bank in Pineville, loves two things: baseball and his fiancée, Candy Hollis, a teller where he works. As he prepares for another shot at the championship and a future with Candy, his life seems perfect. Little does he know that farm-equipment business owner Conrad Beamis has a vendetta against him for not approving a business loan two years earlier. Step by step, Conrad sets out to exact his revenge on Alex by taking away what he loves most: first, his relationship with Candy and then the baseball championship. The couple starts having difficulties after Conrad hires Candy as his personal assistant, and a championship for Alex’s Cherokees feels impossible—the business tycoon stacks the Creeks team, and even the umpires work for him. Then a strange boy named Timmy joins the Cherokees for their final game against the Creeks. The baseball diamond becomes a place of transformation, justice, and the supernatural in a comedic romp of a finale. If this book’s antagonist sounds a bit overly diabolical for the context, that’s because he is; indeed, the devilish Conrad comes off as something of a mustache-twirling villain. In contrast, the main character, Alex, is likable though a little bland—somewhat like the story’s small-town setting. Those looking for a simple, somewhat predictable story of an underdog team will enjoy the outcome, however. There are some touching moments, as when Conrad’s autistic son, Ray, gets his first-ever baseball hit. A lot of paranormal occurrences during the game simultaneously amuse the crowd and teach lessons about cheating, fair play, and overall goodness.
A nostalgic, heartwarming look at small-town baseball, but its scheming villain can make it difficult to take seriously at times.
In 2041, the United States goes to war with China in Hardy’s (The Place Where the Giant Fell, 2016, etc.) action-packed novel.
President Constance Higgins is in a quandary. After a socialist presidential administration, the country is $32 trillion in debt, so the government is forced to seek financial aid from foreign nations. China demands repayment of its debt in gold, but Higgins refuses. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence operatives intercept a strange transmission that mentions something called “Operation Dragon.” At a summit, China and other powerful nations inform Higgins that all the country’s debts will be cleared—if she gives them ownership of land in California that will enable them to take control of the world’s oil supply. Soon, further chaos and war erupts. Another plotline involves brothers Mike and Sean Dalton, the sons of President Higgins’ best friend, Maria. Mike puts Sean in the hospital in retaliation for upsetting his girlfriend, Kyla MacGregor, but then Sean escapes and disappears. Later, Kyla is drugged, raped, and impregnated by an intruder while Mike, a U.S. Army lieutenant, is away at war. As he fights for his own survival, he realizes that Sean’s whereabouts might be closer than he assumed. This novel effectively encapsulates the difficulty of wartime, both for those on the front line and for the decision-makers in the government. Specifically, Hardy depicts the emotional bonds between people in crisis; for example, President Higgins and Secretary of Defense John Mahood are shown to be able to work together, despite their differing opinions. However, some parts of the book espouse an anti-immigration philosophy, which some readers may find jarring: “illegal aliens living in the United States would remain loyal to Mexico....They were sucking the American economy dry of its treasure, usurping jobs, and sending the money back home.”
An intense, sometimes-disturbing story about a disastrous American future.
In Hardy’s (Whisper in My Ear, 2015, etc.) historical crime novel, an ambitious judge in pre-statehood Arizona sacrifices life and love while his daughter stays true to her own heart.
In 1912 Arizona, Judge Horace Benton maneuvers people like chess pieces to meet his goals of becoming governor of Arizona and then president of the United States. To that end, he postpones his marriage to his Mexican housekeeper and lover, Maria, losing her love but removing a potential hindrance to his career. He orchestrates an alignment between his daughter, Carrie, and Earl Remington, the son of a wealthy rancher, and is certain that she’ll thank him for it: “Carrie will appreciate what I am doing even more when she becomes First Daughter of the American nation.” But first, he must remove Carrie’s true love, Rodney Buchard, a respected young man of Mexican descent. Judge Benton hires a local ne’er-do-well, Oliver Draper, to kill Rodney, but Carrie and the young man foil Draper’s effort, protecting themselves in their secret meeting place—a hidden alcove within nearby Fire Mountain. The just, lawful Marshal Max Greystone heads that murder investigation, and also looks into the death of Ida Mae Carrington, a peer of Rodney’s and Carrie’s. When Rodney and Earl both get drafted into World War I and serve in the same infantry division, Judge Benton convinces Earl to use the opportunity to get rid of Rodney once and for all. Although Judge Benton’s nefarious aims advance the plot, Carrie’s emotional integrity forms the heart of the story. The extended flashback that makes up the bulk of the novel drops Carrie’s perspective when the action moves to the European battlefields, and the details about the war are often engaging but sometimes flat: “Some of the outfits the recruits were issued were woolen winter issue, even though it was May.” However, for those who love heavy doses of historical fact in their fiction, this is a minor issue, as this inverted detective story is an absorbing read.
Aficionados of Arizona and World War I history will particularly enjoy this story, which offers a wide scope of action.
This concluding novel in a trilogy examines three American lives that intersect during the Vietnam War.
Cathy Addison, a nurse stationed in Vietnam, is brutally beaten and repeatedly raped by a psychopath, Ray Slaugh, who was stalking her best friend and colleague, Barbara Mandera. Dion Murphy, Cathy’s boyfriend, enraged when he discovers what happened, tracks down Ray and kills him in self-defense. Soon after, Cathy shows up (it’s unclear how she too found Ray when the military could not), and shoots his corpse in a fuguelike fit of fury. Dion, a Marine lieutenant, enlists the help of a first sergeant to doctor the scene of the shooting, but military investigators figure out that he and Cathy are likely responsible, and prepare to prosecute both. Meanwhile, Cathy resigns her post and returns to Minnesota, pulverized by distress, especially after she learns she is pregnant as a result of the rape. Dion travels back to the United States to pledge his loyalty to her and marry her, and to stand by her side when they inevitably face trial. Meanwhile, Norman Coddington, a fighter pilot, finally learns that his girlfriend, Barbara, lied about her past—she was once a prostitute and sex slave, and hails from inauspicious beginnings. Norm leaves her, and Barbara, extremely distraught, attempts suicide. Shortly after, Norm is shot down flying over North Vietnam and captured, and the appalling ordeal forces him to reconsider his judgment of Barbara. The harrowing account of Norm’s treatment in captivity by the enemy continues the series’ commitment to a realistic, if often gruesome, portrayal of war. But this is the weakest of the three volumes, mostly because the narrative focus shifts from the war itself, Hardy’s (Whisper In My Ear, 2015, etc.) strong suit, and devolves into a soap opera. Furthermore, the writing remains just as cloyingly earnest as in the first two installments, and riddled with clichés: “It is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all.” And repeating the pattern of the first two volumes, the final book is indefensibly long at 806 pages. Despite the tale’s powerful depiction of Norm’s experience as a prisoner of war, readers won over by the first book may be disappointed by the last.
While offering some enthralling accounts of war, this book delivers a frustratingly anticlimactic end to an otherwise strong series.
This second novel in a trilogy follows three Americans wrestling with the horror of the Vietnam War.
Norman Coddington, an ace fighter pilot in Vietnam, falls deeply in love with a Filipina nurse, Barbara Mandera. He struggles to fully give his heart to her, filled with fear of both commitment and rejection. He also knows his cold mother will never accept a daughter-in-law who isn’t white, and marrying Barbara might jeopardize his considerable inheritance. Barbara has anxieties of her own: born into an impoverished family, she was a prostitute and a sex slave before fleeing a sadistic American husband to attend nursing school. She changed her name, and told Norman she comes from a respectable middle-class family, but her murderous ex-husband is intent on tracking her down. Cathy Addison, Barbara’s best friend and fellow nurse, is also endangered by this relentless predator. Cathy’s grim experiences as a combat nurse provide some of the more realistic glimpses into the gritty ravages of war, and the heavy emotional toll such a relentless spectacle exacts. Cathy is engaged to Dion Murphy, a lieutenant in the Marines, who has disappeared and is hunted by a prolific enemy sniper, Ngu Gin. Meanwhile, one of Dion’s best soldiers, Pvt. First Class Randy Peterson, inadvertently reveals sensitive data to an enemy agent disguised as a prostitute. While some information from the first volume is revisited here, this novel is best read as a sequel to its predecessor, rather than a stand-alone story. Hardy (Whisper In My Ear, 2015, etc.) deftly plumbs the darker aspects of war, shorn of romanticizing sentimentality. And this second volume allows him ample opportunity to layer the three main characters—Dion, Cathy, and Norm—with even greater depth. The writing can be haltingly earnest, especially when juxtaposed with such unflinchingly realistic depictions of violence. In anger, Norm thinks to himself: “Those bastards are trying to kill the only woman I ever loved and the dozens of other caregivers who work there, not to mention the sick and wounded, and they may have already murdered Dan too!” Additionally, like the first volume, this book is needlessly long, and the multiple subplots, developed too slowly, will likely weary the reader. But for those who enjoyed the first installment, there’s still plenty of riveting action here, and an artful reprisal of the principals.
An engrossing portrayal of war, unfortunately bogged down by a welter of parallel plots.
Three young Americans, haunted and buoyed by family legacies, meet during the Vietnam War in this debut historical novel.
In the 1960s, Dion Murphy is a star middle linebacker descended from a long line of soldiers dating back to the Civil War. He desperately wants to live up to their accomplishments and the family’s reputation for honor, so he stays at Bryant Military Academy, where his relatives went, even after he’s accepted into the considerably more prestigious West Point; later, he turns down a chance at a pro football career to serve in the Marines during the Vietnam War. Cathy Addison has the soul of a caregiver, much like her courageous, compassionate ancestor, who was murdered by Native Americans. Like Dion, she’s also attached to the virtue of honor; as a result, she attempts to remain true to her fiance, despite his boorish behavior. She becomes a nurse in the Navy medical corps and gets deployed to Vietnam. Norman Coddington is born to a prominent family in Boston but suffers due to a chillingly cold mother and absentee father. He wrestles with existential angst, which expresses itself as a reckless embrace of risk, which led him to Vietnam. All three characters encounter, in one way or another, the savage lessons of war and are transformed by them. At one point, for example, Norman reflects on his dreams of war glory: “Yet now those fantasies meant little in the face of the harsh realities of combat, and he’d become aware that he was a foolish lad when he’d spawned those ideals.” Overall, this novel is first and foremost a tale about grappling with one’s ineluctable past. Hardy masterfully depicts how the weight of family history can accumulate over successive generations, and how such a legacy can be either a guiding compass or an oppressive yoke. He also deftly captures the barbarous reality of war. The three characters’ stories ultimately intersect, but only very late in the novel, so each plot maintains its own autonomous life. This is a long book, though, at more than 750 pages, due in part to the author’s liberal expansion of side plots. Also, readers may find that Cathy’s naïveté when it comes to her suitors defies credulity.
A sensitively rendered story about the impact of the past on the future, and about the morally clarifying effects of war.