"Coleman (Critical Transfer, 2013)...... jumps quickly from one action-packed event to another in fast-paced storytelling that’s highly enjoyable."– Kirkus Reviews
Loosely based on true events from the author’s ancestry, this historical novel tells the tale of Peppino, an upper-class troublemaker in a small Italian village who resents the restrictions of his highborn status and longs to fight for the common people.
In late-19th-century Italy, the village of Brancaleone is divided by an imaginary line that keeps the poor from fraternizing with the rich. Teenage Peppino resents this division, which prevents him, a baroness’ son, from being able to freely socialize with his peasant friend Emilio. He also resents the monsignor, the local head of the church; more corrupt than godly, he uses his position of power to manipulate the locals for his own gain. When Emilio enlists Peppino to help rescue local hero Nicola from being executed, Peppino finds his life finally veering off the narrow, upper-class path previously laid out for him. From fraternizing with outlaws, a stint at a monastery, being accused of murder and meeting Pope Leo XIII, Peppino’s journey leads to much personal growth—and a few startling revelations. Often, the novel doesn’t feel like a period piece, which is both good and bad. Much of the dialogue seems distractingly modern, yet Peppino’s conversations with a Hasidic Jew named Abramo provide interesting insight into the era’s attitudes toward religion. Coleman (Critical Transfer, 2013), who based the novel on his grandfather’s exploits, jumps quickly from one action-packed event to another in fast-paced storytelling that’s highly enjoyable. Despite Peppino’s fascinating interactions, the baroness proves to be the most compelling character. Her complex relationship with Peppino and the mixture of love and resentment they seem to share are more intriguing than many of Peppino’s exchanges with the more heroic characters of the story.
A fast-moving historical tale of religious and class conflicts, told with a personal touch.
The hero of Coleman’s debut thriller has a lot to prove, including his innocence.
Peter Barrett almost had it all. He was a vice president at Hudson Enterprises, a reputable computer corporation, and he had a gorgeous wife, “two expensive cars and a home worth more than five million dollars.” The only thing he didn’t have? His father-in-law’s complete respect—and his father-in-law just happened to be his boss. Peter entered into a “high-stakes business gamble” that required him to transfer $70 million of Hudson Enterprises’ money to a government account in Cuba. If the deal succeeded, Peter would win a huge contract that his father-in-law couldn’t help but admire, so when the CIA agent brokering the deal told Peter it had to be kept in the “strictest confidence,” he agreed. The CIA agent promised Peter that the money would be returned to Hudson Enterprises within 45 days, but then the newspapers heard about the transfer—as well as rumors that Cuba was planning to buy medium-range guided missiles with the money. In the eyes of almost everyone, Peter went from being a prosperous businessman to a thief, a traitor and a terrorist. When the novel opens, Peter is trying to grapple with the public revelation of the news. He initially decides against avoiding the consequences and heads to the office, where he assumes he’ll be arrested. But when Peter sees the police and his father-in-law, he decides to follow his instincts and make a run for it. Peter’s race against the clock to prove his innocence will take him to a friend from his past, across the country and even to Cuba. But will that be enough? And will he be able to escape the people who want him dead? Coleman’s characters are vivid and believable; from Peter to his friend Sky, a former actress with an “uncanny sense of street smarts,” Coleman creates people who are realistic and quirky. Unfortunately, though fast-paced, the circumstances are often implausible. First, would Peter really be able to transfer $70 million without anyone else immediately noticing? And second, almost every time Peter gets into a tight spot, he’s miraculously saved by a new character—first Sky, then Sky’s father, then a friend of Sky’s father, among others. His adventures would have been more suspenseful if more often he’d had to rely on his own wits.
Even if the dramatic tension sometimes sags, well-drawn locations and intriguing characters keep this thriller enjoyable.