A disjointed tale told with skill but also with ample use of dialect that may put off some readers.

READ REVIEW

BOY IN THE TREETOPS

Newsome tells the stories of a 19th-century slave boy and a family trying to get by in a contemporary North Carolina island community.

The Edwards children, Callie and Jeffy, are enjoying a vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when their parents take them to Hiatt Plantation so they can learn about slavery. After the family arrives at the plantation, the novel jumps back in time to that of Sammy, one of its young slaves. Newsome, the author of Joe Peas (2016), here tells Sammy’s story, making frequent use of dialect that may not be to everyone’s taste. Too frail for the fields, Sammy (called “Sambo” by his slave master) winds up working in the Hiatt house. But his brother Johnny is killed by a snakebite in the fields. To avoid that fate, Sammy runs away and takes his brother’s name to avoid suspicion. He is joined by a parrot that has also escaped the Hiatt house, and they end up at sea on a boat that raids other ships looking, in part, for treasure. This is where Newsome’s writing shines. He is especially adept at capturing seafaring dangers, including the risks that arise when a British warship closes in on Johnny’s ship and fires its cannon during a storm: “By now the ship was wallowing into troughs between the waves so deep that the crests of the waves could not be seen above the hull.” When Johnny and his bird are shipwrecked on a coastal island, the action shifts to the present and a family that has just moved to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Four-year-old J.J. befriends what seems to be Johnny’s spirit, who J.J.’s older siblings, Benji and Kelsey, think is an imaginary friend. J.J.’s dad, James, finds work at a nursing home and brings Benji to volunteer. They cross paths with an old grifter named Charles Murphy, and when Benji finds a bit of treasure, Murphy swoops in. Both the historical and present-day stories are entertaining, and their plots have some symmetry. Newsome doesn’t quite nail the transition when he brings Johnny’s story into the present, but by then readers may be too absorbed in the story to mind. Given the youth of its characters, this novel might appeal most to children or young teenagers who are ready for mature content, such as a reference to a “sexual liaison” and an auction featuring a naked slave.

A disjointed tale told with skill but also with ample use of dialect that may put off some readers.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more