A novel that forges its own memorable path despite some overly elaborate backstory.

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THE LOVE THAT MOVES THE STARS

Debut author Whelan presents a novel about a disciplined wanderer and the many lives that he touches.

It’s 1974 in Canterbury, Massachusetts, and Virgil Peterson is working in the local library. One day, he’s startled by a man in an elaborate leather cape—a local personality known as “the Leatherman,” who, Virgil thinks, looks like “some outlandish composite of 18th-century swashbuckling pirate, American Indian sachem and medieval hermit.” He soon finds that the offbeat Leatherman has a strange effect on him. The man is no ordinary vagabond: He walks in a geographic circle, every 28 days, that takes him through precisely the same towns; the route takes him from Boston to Brockton to Lowell to Somerville. The Leatherman also tells Virgil that he wants to learn about every celestial object in the night sky. He wants to do so for a very specific reason: to impress a woman known as “Honeybee.” In 1943 in Jackson, Mississippi, Honeybee lost her young child after an incident that still causes her great guilt. Now, in 1974, she attempts to contact her sister in Massachusetts, with whom she has a strained relationship. The book darts back and forth between the past and present lives of Virgil, the Leatherman, and Honeybee. All three have suffered a great deal in their respective backstories, and all have doubts about their futures. The Leatherman’s history receives the most attention in the text, delving into his time in France in the 1930s and his love of a married Frenchwoman named Béatrice. He is, after all, “The Man Who Walks In A Circle,” and it becomes clear that he didn’t embark on such a strange existence just for fun. The allusions to the work of poet Dante are many; at the outset, for instance, there’s a reference to a famous quote about abandoning all hope. Readers will enjoy finding out how much of Dante’s work made it into this strange story, and they’ll also be interested in just how strange the story becomes, as drug use, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a group of other homeless people play parts. The Leatherman also imparts unusual but notably succinct observations along the way. He notes, for instance, how he’s been around long enough to have seen the disappearance of the fedora in men’s fashion as well as “the fleets of Technicolor pleasure boats of the Fifties and Sixties.” Still, he remains a grounded character who’s able to carry much of the story. That said, some developments strain credulity, including events in Leatherman’s detailed past in Europe as a jewel thief and cinephile. Also, readers won’t be surprised that his days as a criminal in the ’30s didn’t turn out well given his current circumstances as a wanderer 40 years hence. Nevertheless, readers will find themselves engaged as the fates of Virgil, the Leatherman, and Honeybee become inexorably intertwined. Taken individually, these players are merely frustrated individuals with sad pasts, but together, they create their own unique adventure.

A novel that forges its own memorable path despite some overly elaborate backstory.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2020

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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.

ONE GOOD DEED

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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