This worthwhile read brings a little-known tragedy to vivid life.

READ REVIEW

THE PROVIDENTIAL ORIGINS OF MAXIMILIANO RUBÍN

A debut historical novel set in 19th-century Spain offers a trove of philosophical, social, and political clashes.

On April, 18, 1886, Cayetano Galeote Cotilla, a defrocked priest, shot and killed the bishop of Madrid in front of hundreds of witnesses. The murderer and the crime are real, and Battersby’s tale revolves around the punishment for the deed. Will Cayetano live or die? Enter two protagonists, also historical figures. One is the novelist Benito Pérez Galdós, “the most famous Spanish writer whom many English-speaking readers may not know by name or reputation.” The other is the eminent alienist (as psychiatrists were then called) Luis Simarro. Benito and Luis are former friends. Luis is a scientist with a special interest in the care of the mentally ill, called at the time degenerates. He is also a determinist. Benito is a fierce humanist, a believer in free will. Luis is convinced that Cayetano is mad, a degenerate born of a family with a sketchy genetic history. Benito wants to show that Cayetano is rational even though a finding of insanity might save his life. Cayetano is sentenced to death, but the judgment is later overturned. The real point of the engrossing story is the intrigue that is hinted at throughout. The political situation in Spain pervades everything and affects the outcome of the trial. The cast includes leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Royalists, the revolutionary Progressives, and others. Alliances are formed for convenience and broken for the same reason. Fortunes are ever shifting, mistrust abounds, and the country is weary. In the end, it is Benito who becomes Battersby’s intuitive hero, holding humane values and puzzling things out. Luis is deftly portrayed as a good man, but his research brings him to the brink of eugenics, the scariest of 19th-century pseudo-sciences. The author’s enthusiasm—and proselytizing—for Galdós’ books is touching and admirable (Maximiliano Rubín is one of the Spanish novelist’s characters). And Battersby’s rich details will transport readers to the turbulent era of his complex protagonists.

This worthwhile read brings a little-known tragedy to vivid life.

Pub Date: March 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-913332-00-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Tre Cappelli Editions

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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