A richly entertaining tale that delivers a captivating history lesson.

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OLOHANA

IN THE SERVICE OF THE KING

A historical novel focuses on King Kamehameha’s successful consolidation of the Hawaiian Islands.

John Young, bosun on the Eleanora, and Isaac Davis, a gunner’s mate, have been captured by the forces of Kamehameha, the most powerful chief on the Big Island (Hawaii, aka Moku Nui). Those forces have also seized a small sloop called the Fair American. Kamehameha recognizes and values talent: Young is to captain the Fair American and Davis is to train the chief’s warriors in the use of Western armaments. These men resist as long as they can—even plot to escape—but eventually, with no other options, they join Kamehameha’s cause, and he even elevates them to ali’i (noble) status. Kamehameha is determined to extend his rule to all of Moku Nui, then conquer the string of islands to the northwest that will become part of present-day Hawaii. This entails ferocious fighting, and Young and Davis do their part. At the book’s end, Kamehameha has conquered all but far-flung Kaua’i and Ni’ihau. O’Leary sticks very close to the actual history, including the important native characters and Kamehameha’s haole (foreign) advisers, Young and Davis. The author is an accomplished writer with a wonderful, (mostly) true tale to tell. Well drawn is the friendship between Young and Davis, strangers in a strange land who first want only to flee but finally, when Capt. Vancouver offers them passage home to England, realize that, with families now, they have become Hawaiians. Still, they never quite get over the brutality that is in ironic contrast to this Edenic archipelago. In Kamehameha’s world, one’s life is loosely held and to die in combat is reward enough. The battles are incredibly grotesque, gory affairs where “expertly wielded war clubs crush skulls, daggers disembowel, spears impale.” So readers get high drama, epic battles, and an engaging account of Hawaiian history. O’Leary provides a useful glossary of the Hawaiian words sprinkled liberally through the text, though they will still present a challenge to the audience. And because the Hawaiian characters’ names will be quite confusing to many readers, a list of them as front matter would have been helpful.

A richly entertaining tale that delivers a captivating history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-980924-49-4

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 6, 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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To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

SUMMER OF '69

Nantucket, not Woodstock, is the main attraction in Hilderbrand’s (Winter in Paradise, 2018, etc.) bittersweet nostalgia piece about the summer of 1969.

As is typical with Hilderbrand’s fiction, several members of a family have their says. Here, that family is the “stitched together” Foley-Levin clan, ruled over by the appropriately named matriarch, Exalta, aka Nonny, mother of Kate Levin. Exalta’s Nantucket house, All’s Fair, also appropriately named, is the main setting. Kate’s three older children, Blair, 24, Kirby, 20, and Tiger, 19, are products of her first marriage, to Wilder Foley, a war veteran, who shot himself. Second husband David Levin is the father of Jessie, who’s just turned 13. Tiger has been drafted and sends dispatches to Jessie from Vietnam. Kirby has been arrested twice while protesting the war in Boston. (Don’t tell Nonny!) Blair is married and pregnant; her MIT astrophysicist husband, Angus, is depressive, controlling, and deceitful—the unmelodramatic way Angus’ faults sneak up on both Blair and the reader is only one example of Hilderbrand’s firm grasp on real life. Many plot elements are specific to the year. Kirby is further rebelling by forgoing Nantucket for rival island Martha’s Vineyard—and a hotel job close to Chappaquiddick. Angus will be working at Mission Control for the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Kirby has difficult romantic encounters, first with her arresting officer, then with a black Harvard student whose mother has another reason, besides Kirby’s whiteness, to distrust her. Pick, grandson of Exalta’s caretaker, is planning to search for his hippie mother at Woodstock. Other complications seem very up-to-date: a country club tennis coach is a predator and pedophile. Anti-Semitism lurks beneath the club’s genteel veneer. Kate’s drinking has accelerated since Tiger’s deployment overseas. Exalta’s toughness is seemingly untempered by grandmotherly love. As always, Hilderbrand’s characters are utterly convincing and immediately draw us into their problems, from petty to grave. Sometimes, her densely packed tales seem to unravel toward the end. This is not one of those times.

To use the parlance of the period, a highly relevant retrospective.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-42001-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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