Though she can't read, Mary wants a book—the other girls press flowers in theirs—and in the end her father, a...



In The Aimer Gate, the chronological third volume in the quartet that began with The Stone Book (p. 65, J-21), Joseph—who chose the smith's trade in Granny Reardon—is now reduced to making horseshoes for World War I and concerned that there might be nothing for his son Robert, still a boy, to "get aback of." At present Robert's job is to transport legless Faddock Allman, a Boer War veteran, to the field, and to fetch the stones Allman breaks for road flints. On this day Robert's Uncle Charlie, a soldier home on leave, is also in the fields, helping to scythe the corn hill and then, with his army rifle, shooting the rabbits so uncovered. In Tom Fobble's Day, where we learn that Charlie was killed in his war, we follow Joseph's grandson William through a day and an evening of sledding with Stewart Allman under World War II bombers and spotlights and anti-aircraft fire. It is Joseph's last day at the forge and, it turns out, his last day of life. ("I really do not know," he sighs early on, considering what times have come to.) Through both these short, beautifully crafted stories, which have even less conventional plot structure than the first two, the keynotes of time, change, timelessness, and generations first struck in The Stone Book are developed by means of parallels, bonds, and variations among the books themselves. In The Aimer Gate, Faddock Allman's delight in "the best stone" (readers will remember that it is from the old Allman house) both recalls and contrasts with old Robert's in the previous volume; and Robert's climb to the church clock-tower, where he finds old Robert's sign and his own name on the perfectly finished capstone, echoes and extends Mary's heady steeple-top ride in the first book. In Tom Fobble's Day old Robert's pipe ends up with Joseph's "prentice piece" forge key and his wedding horseshoes; and Joseph makes young William a sled of old William's loom (he was Mary's technologically bypassed uncle in the first book) and iron from the forge. On the sled, in the concluding sentence, "through hand and eye, block, forge and loom to the hill and all that he owned, he sledged sledged sledged for the black and glittering night and the sky flying on fire and the expectation of snow." More could be said, but needn't be here. Garner says it in his layered images, in regional speech that is somehow both direct and glancing, and in moments like the final passage, which contain the whole. Michael Foreman's illustrations for all four books are fine complements, with a slant of their own that points up the experience but does not obtrude.

Though she can't read, Mary wants a book—the other girls press flowers in theirs—and in the end her father, a stonemason who reads rocks instead of books, makes her one of stone. "It's better than a book you can open. A book has only one story," says Father. "And I'll guarantee Lizzie Allman and Annie Leah haven't them flowers pressed in their books." But before she asks for the book, Father has spun her around astride the golden cockerel that tops the church steeple he's working on. "You'll remember this day, my girl, for the rest of your life," he says. "I already have," says Mary, no less engaging a child for the heights and depths to which Garner exposes her. And before she gets her book, Father takes her inside the hill, sending her ahead along underground passages where he no longer fits, to a secret place with footprints all about her and "daubing" on the wall: Father's mason sign on a shaggy bull and a hand her size outlined in white. "Once you've seen it, you're changed for the rest of your days." In Cranny Reardun, the second of four illuminated moments in a family history, the emphasis shifts from the awesomely elemental to the social-historical, and young Joseph's choice of smithing over his Grandfather's stonecutting trade is in tune with the times. So is that instance of stunning injustice, the Allman's house being torn down—and the family evicted—to make the Rector's wife a garden wall. With good stone running scarce and the call going to brick, Grandfather begins the day of Joseph's decision hilariously mocking a temperance hymn; he ends it, full of beer and Bible verse, jubilant over Joseph's move and his own acquisition of some Allman stone for his proudly crafted wall. Joseph is a "granny reardun" because his mother, the Mary we thought we knew in The Stone Book, can't afford to raise him herself. There's no hint of how that experience affected her or what became of the little girl who wanted "to live in a grand house, and look after every kind of beautiful thing you can think of—old things, brass"; with respect and integrity Garner sticks to the bone of his story. In similar spirit he informs his dialogue with the old regional (Cheshire) speech, without condescending to his characters or readers. "Organic" is an unavoidable word in describing both stories' structure, vision, and imagery. Simple, profound, and splendidly clear, they will leave children as exhilarated as Joseph is when the personal significance of the smith-crafted weathercock, clock, bell and steeple bursts through: "He knew something he didn't know.

Pub Date: May 15, 1979


Page Count: -

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1979

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.


Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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