An inventive take on real-life events, and a worthwhile read for Lincoln enthusiasts, law scholars and true-crime fans.

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Kind Eyes

A fictionalized account, inspired by original documents, of the last criminal trial litigated by Abraham Lincoln.

In 1859, Lincoln’s ascent to the White House is only a year away. He maintains a law practice in Springfield, Ill., where he serves as counsel for Peachy Quinn Harrison, a woman accused of murder. Perroni’s first novel is inspired by the only known transcript of any of Lincoln’s real-life trials—a true rarity among mid-19th-century court cases. The first chapter reimagines the moment of the document’s discovery and sets the stage for the legacy the trial will leave behind. The book then breaks into three main sections: the trial, told primarily through the transcript itself (“tailored to fit the story line,” according to Perroni) and a series of flashbacks to the alleged crime; a fictional Civil War battlefield narrative; and the story of the fledgling law career of the defendant’s sister, Virginia, an invented character. The author makes the most of his material, a relatively unremarkable case—it’s no Helter Skelter or In Cold Blood—in which Lincoln presented a fairly straightforward defense. The plot elements that really sing are those that Perroni created, including an effort to exclude an alluring witness and Virginia’s drive to emulate Lincoln when few women were members of the bar. (The Civil War interlude, however, is less successful and seems only tangentially related to the rest of the novel.) Perroni writes capably, despite some anachronistic dialogue (“ ‘Well, it’s kind of complicated…’ Lincoln began to say.”) and behavior (including a lot of hugging). The characters are engaging enough to keep readers rushing along to find out what happens, and a final author’s note answers questions about the characters’ fates and where fiction and history intersect.

An inventive take on real-life events, and a worthwhile read for Lincoln enthusiasts, law scholars and true-crime fans.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615305127

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Sam Perroni

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2013

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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