"A vividly described journey through Peru’s underbelly as the narrative gains momentum, hurtling toward a dramatic climax ... Tomlinson’s debut is golden."– Kirkus Reviews
Life isn’t easy for Colleen Hayes in 1978 San Francisco. She’s an ex-con who hopes her daughter will want her back in her life. She needs to keep her sketchy security job so her parole won’t be revoked. And when a dying rich man hires her to find who murdered his daughter 11 years ago, Colleen will find her own life in danger.
When Colleen learned that her husband had been abusing their 8-year-old daughter, Pamela, Colleen killed him. She served 9 years in prison, and when she got out in 1977, she came to San Francisco to search for Pamela. Instead, she ended up helping a cop find the killer of Pamela’s friend. Now, a year later, it’s that tenacity that wealthy Edward Copeland values. His teenage daughter, Margaret, was murdered in 1967, her killer never found. Copeland, along with his surviving daughter, Alex, wants Colleen to find any answers while he’s still alive. Colleen’s questions, though, lead to another murder and put her own life in danger. Tomlinson (The Darknet File, 2019, etc.) deftly makes us not only understand Colleen, but root for her. He also does an excellent job of capturing the times of 40 years ago—Colleen can barely afford cigarettes at 40 cents a pack and spends hours making phone calls on a pay phone and digging for records; current readers will have to remind themselves not to think “Why doesn’t she just Google that?”
Even with an ending some might find abrupt, Tomlinson’s confidence in his characters will have readers ready for his follow-up.
Tomlinson’s princely, epic debut spans decades in a Peruvian family’s separation and reunion amid political unrest and terrorist atrocities.
In 1987, Peruvian peasant siblings Nina, 12, and Miguel Flores, 16, live on a potato farm raised by proud, hardworking parents. Their homeland is being terrorized by the “Sendero Luminoso” (Shining Path), a Maoist insurgent militia, as locally armed soldiers become outnumbered and more and more of the land is dominated by the violent faction. When their father, Adan, is shot by soldiers and Agustín Malqui, the village pastor, is abducted, Miguel, ever the picture of restless youth, sacrifices himself by joining the Shining Path guerrillas to spare the rest of his family from certain death. Tomlinson masterfully propels his ambitious narrative two decades forward to find Nina, a Cuzco tourism police official in southeastern Peru, miraculously reuniting with a downtrodden, alcoholic Pastor Malqui who’d been isolated for almost a decade in a political prison. Before he disappears again, however, Malqui tells her that Miguel is still alive but ensconced in drug trade narcoterrorism. Nina ignores stern warnings from her lover, Francisco Guislán, a high-ranking anti-terrorist official, and risks her life to first find Malqui again and then her long-lost brother. These powerful events enable Tomlinson to unfurl a vividly described journey throughout Peru’s underbelly as the narrative gains momentum, hurtling toward a dramatic climax and a surprisingly unconventional conclusion. A lushly atmospheric novel consistently churning with intrinsic familial yearnings and authentic suspense, the author’s story works on a variety of levels. Incorporating Peru’s rich yet turbulent history, high drama amid the villages perched in the expansive Andes mountains, a cast of impressively crafted characters and a cinematic plot that would translate wonderfully to the big screen, Tomlinson’s debut is golden.
Elaborate and robust; a prime example of history and histrionics juggled with equal precision.