In his debut novel, Ackermann delivers a tale of unscrupulous real estate developers and unfaithful spouses.
Jim Schroeder has always tried to live as virtuous a life as possible. Born and raised on a farm by indefatigable German parents, he eventually moved to suburban New Jersey, where he became a successful land surveyor. Schroeder is committed to his work, but he values his home life with his wife, Leslie, and their two children above all else. His life is rocked, however, when his wife has an affair; he’s also drawn into a controversy about contested property lines that could affect multimillion-dollar real estate deals. Schroeder grew up believing that the “three keys” his parents taught him—honor, courage and perseverance—were the most important things in life. However, many people, including his wife and son, don’t follow the same rules that he does, and avaricious land developers often trample on all three keys before they have their morning coffee. The novel earnestly approaches the subjects of family loyalty and the importance of upholding marital vows but explores little new territory; overall, its explorations lack vivid characterization and realistic dialogue. The ultimate courtroom showdown regarding the boundary dispute, however, contains considerable detail about the process of establishing property lines, and Ackermann is clearly in his element here. He escorts readers through the weeds of the surveying process, dropping in terms such as “senior rights” and “one-foot-long engineers’ scales” and establishing their significance. Not surprisingly, Schroeder’s integrity and knowledge become critical to the disposition of the case; even the judge comments, “In my experience, too many [land surveyors] are not as well versed on the subject as they should be and look upon it as just a job....But Mr. Schroeder has opened my eyes to just how professional a surveyor can be.”
A passionate but uneven tale of morality and honesty.