An entertaining, informative account of the beginnings of European settlement in North America.

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THE CIRCLE BROKEN

New novel by retired education professor Johnston explores the competing claims of love, commerce and religion in 17th-century Canada.

This work of historical fiction mines its author’s longstanding interest in Native American  history and culture in order to craft an account of the early days of European settlement in Canada. The narrative follows Remy Moisson, a young Frenchman who has abandoned a promising Jesuit education to seek his fortune overseas. Through Remy’s actions and journal entries, the reader gains an insightful picture of a representative young man’s intellectual and personal development as he encounters the differing perspectives of his European peers and the peoples of the New World. Most important is his experience of falling in love with Tika, a young Wendat woman, who also serves as a liaison between the local Jesuit missionary and her tribe. As the novel unfolds, this romance not only places both Remy and Tika in grave danger, but also forces each to confront the other’s traditional practices and beliefs. This theme of cultural friction is not limited to the story of the star-crossed lovers. Johnston skillfully depicts the competing perspectives of commercial explorers and missionaries, showing validity in each, even as both are subtly critiqued. Among the strongest passages in the novel are the fictional letters exchanged between Jesuit priests on far-flung missions. Johnston adeptly conveys these characters’ fears and aspirations while also giving a convincing sense of their frame of reference. Although some readers may wish that Johnston had drawn the protagonist with equal subtlety, Remy in fact fits into a long tradition of upstanding adventure heroes, such as Jim Hawkins or D’Artagnan, upon whom a wide range of readers can project their own personalities. In any event, the complex character of Tika, caught between love and tradition, provides an insightful point of contrast. Though the generally brisk narrative sometimes drags, readers will nonetheless find themselves enriched by the various bits of historical information Johnston has succeeded in weaving into his story.

An entertaining, informative account of the beginnings of European settlement in North America.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-1426917981

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2010

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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MERCY

Despite kilt-wearing characters right out of Brigadoon, Picoult (Picture Perfect, 1995, etc.) persuasively explores a mercy killing in a small Massachusetts town and the subject of spouses who love too much. Wheelock has been home to the tradition-upholding MacDonalds and their hereditary chieftains since the 18th century, when the clan fled Scotland after the British defeated them in battle. Each clan chief has inherited more responsibilities over time, and the current laird Cam MacDonald is, like his father before him, the local chief of police. Cam yearns to travel and, though married, finds wife Allie's devotion stifling. Allie, a florist, has in turn suppressed all of her own opinions and pleasures for the sake of making Cam, whom she adores, happy. As the story begins, another MacDonald, James, has demonstrated his overwhelming love for wife Maggie in a very extreme form: James turns himself in to cousin Cam after admitting that he has smothered Maggie at her request because she was terminally ill with cancer and could no longer stand the pain. While the quality and wisdom of James's devotion to his wife will be tried in public, Allie's love for Cam will also be tested as free spirit Mia arrives in town. Mia has been everywhere and seen all the places Cam dreams of; she is also a whiz with flowers and gets immediately hired by Allie. While Allie helps James's lawyer find witnesses who will attest to his devotion to Maggie (he's now being tried for murder), Cam and Mia have an affair. A heartsick Allie learns of it, throws Cam out, sells all of his belongings, and then tries to forget him. But true love is resilient, and Allie, like James, having learned the price of being ``the one who loves more,'' will now try for greater balance. Overly predictable characters aside, Picoult does manage this time to bring trendy, headline-grabbing themes to life. (Literary Guild alternate selection)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 1996

ISBN: 0-399-14160-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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