An appealing look at life in mid-1800s Canada, full of historical detail, engaging characters, and a murder investigation...

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WISHFUL SEEING

In 1851, a Canadian minister with a penchant for solving mysteries is suddenly involved in one that will change his life.

Thaddeus Lewis, a saddlebag preacher, has just landed a plum circuit whose perks include a large manse in the growing town of Cobourg, the services of an assistant, James Small, and the pleasure of the company of his 15-year-old granddaughter, Martha Renwell, who acts as his housekeeper. The construction of the Cobourg to Peterborough Railway has the area bubbling with hopes of prosperity, raising the value of land and providing employment for the surrounding farms and small towns. At a camp meeting, Lewis meets many of his new flock as well as some who have come along to be entertained. There he makes the acquaintance of George Howell and his wife, Ellen, whose blue dress reminds Lewis of his late wife. Howell is not well-liked, and when Ellen is arrested for murder after her husband vanishes, Lewis feels he must help her. To that end, he finds a young lawyer willing to work for free to enhance his career. Martha finds Mr. Townsend Ashby—clever, handsome, and well-off—attractive and fascinating, much more appealing than James Small, an unwelcome suitor who’s been pestering her with his attentions. Lewis, who’s already been instrumental in solving several murders (The Burying Ground, 2015, etc.), pitches in with Martha to collect local gossip and other clues in an attempt to find the real killer. George, whom Lewis suspects as a counterfeiter, remains stubbornly missing, and his young daughter, who’s hiding on their farm, disappears whenever people come to look for her. It will take a climactic trial to bring the case to a close.

An appealing look at life in mid-1800s Canada, full of historical detail, engaging characters, and a murder investigation that takes many surprising twists and turns before it can be solved.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 9781459735378

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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