A dark mystery story that, despite its potential, juggles too many characters and plot twists.

THE AMBER FILE

Detective Mike Carr tries to solve a cold case amid a sea of suspects in a small town in this mystery/thriller set in 1979-1980.

This novel is one of several by Summers (Gethsemani Journals: Two Retreats in 2012, 2012) that stars Lynch’s Corner and its various residents. Mike Carr, a private detective and grieving widower, takes the case of Amber Yeager, a young girl whose murder is still unsolved. Along the way, Mike crosses paths with former Office of Strategic Services members, a mysterious cult of man-hating nuns, and a whole host of small-town adultery, lying and cheating. Summers engagingly establishes the different plot threads, and the mystery is intriguing. An overlarge cast of characters confuses the reader, however, especially Mike’s older relatives—all seem to be spies with a history of crime and an extensive knowledge of religious cults. In addition, while many of the various mysteries come together as the novel progresses, multiple storylines distract from the main plot. The case of Amber’s murder ends up building toward a climax that doesn’t pay off, and the psychopathic-nuns angle is derivative at best. In that vein, despite the abundance of female characters, none of them feel complex or realistic. This is especially true for the character of Crissy, Mike’s love interest, who helps him recover from the death of his wife. Crissy is supposed to be a mysterious woman with a secret, but instead, she comes across as merely inconsistent. All in all, the author lays the groundwork for a fast-paced mystery but doesn’t quite wrap up the many plots set in motion.

A dark mystery story that, despite its potential, juggles too many characters and plot twists.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1493510474

Page Count: 374

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2014

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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