An epic novel in which the historical and thriller elements enrich each other.

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LUCIFER'S DRUM

Nineteenth-century federal agents hunt for a vicious murderer in the midst of the Civil War in MacKinnon’s (Song for a Shadow, 1991, etc.) historical novel.

In 1864, Maj. Nathaniel Truly of the National Detective Police and Capt. Bart Forbes of the Bureau of Military Information are trying to stop newspaper editor/owner Gideon Van Gilder, a Confederate sympathizer, from fleeing the Union. But when they intercept Van Gilder’s coach, they find the man dead inside, his body mutilated. They link an associate of his to U.S. Rep. Ezra Underhill of Maryland, but a letter written by Van Gilder is most illuminating—vaguely suggesting that he and other men, including Underhill and a detective, are being blackmailed. After another man is murdered, Truly and Forbes search for the blackmailer in order to prevent another killing. The author layers the story with extensive historical background, including such notable events as Lt. Gen. Jubal Early leading Rebel cavalry toward Washington, D.C. The perspective shifts from the investigation to the Confederate army’s preparations and march, but the murder mystery offers the more invigorating story, featuring moments of dark humor: Forbes finds a photograph of a recent murder victim and states bluntly and with no sign of mockery, “Here’s how he looked with his face on.” The military story gradually takes over, but the investigation is never completely sidelined and remains intriguing until the end. Significant secondary characters include Sapphira, a young black woman whom Truly bought at a slave auction, freed and raised as his own daughter; and real-life historical figures such as Gen. Robert E. Lee, who discusses the attempted Capitol seizure with fellow Confederate William Norris. MacKinnon keeps the plot moving at a steady tempo with an agent going undercover, an abduction and even more murders. Readers should brace themselves for a hefty read, however, as the book clocks in at nearly 800 pages.

An epic novel in which the historical and thriller elements enrich each other.

Pub Date: July 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0986077401

Page Count: 794

Publisher: Pine Badge Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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