Historical detail abounds in a fast-paced mystery that’s one of Clark’s best.

MURDER AT BEAULIEU ABBEY

Barely recovered from her last outing in Murder at Whitby Abbey (2019), Sister Hildegard is sent on a mission to distant Beaulieu Abbey in February 1390.

A papal schism is ripping their order apart, and the prioress has found a good excuse to send Hildegard down from Yorkshire to spy on Beaulieu, on the south coast of England, which is much closer to France and the anti-pope. Sir William de Hutton has arranged his son’s betrothal to a 12-year-old Cornish heiress, and Hildegard is going to escort the girl back to Swyne, where she’ll live until she’s old enough to marry. Hildegard's companions, Brother Gregory and Brother Egbert, are well traveled and experienced in warfare. The ship carrying Lady Elowen from Cornwall docks an hour’s walk from Beaulieu; for some reason, Elowen is sent ashore first with a casket of gold and is immediately abducted by unknown men. A large area around the abbey is enclosed, but after days when every available man was pressed into the search, Elowen is still missing. William de Hutton puts up a big fuss, but Hildegard, who knows his many flaws, doesn’t completely trust him or the monks who’ve split the abbey over the schism. Outlaws who’ve been granted sanctuary by the Abbey also live nearby; certainly they’d be tempted by gold. The final piece of the puzzle is the notorious gang leader Black Harry. When Hildegard is captured by Black Harry, she’s placed in great danger but drawn much closer to finding Elowen.

Historical detail abounds in a fast-paced mystery that’s one of Clark’s best.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7278-9089-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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