An engaging, sometimes-chilling, and often melancholy tale of the pioneer spirit.

DOGWOOD CROSSING

Frye’s novel tells the story of a post–Revolutionary War tenant farmer and his family who head west to Louisiana for a better future.

It’s the fall of 1798, and Sam Rolens’ father has just died. Sam wants to move his family to what he believes will be greener pastures, where good land is “free for the cost of a survey.” He’s the only one of his family members who initially wants to leave, but his wife, Lucetta, faces down her fears and is willing to make the journey. His brother, Elisha, is more resistant but not enough to go off on his own. And so, Sam, Lucetta, their four children—almost-grown Little Charlie, Eve Mary, Ewan, and the youngest, Raymond—and Elisha pack up their possessions and head first for White’s Fort in Tennessee, a waypoint for anticipative settlers, where they plan to wait out the winter and meet up with Burl Rolens, Sam and Elisha’s uncle. Burl has the experience to guide them through the hazardous journey, but before they can rendezvous, Burl must endure his own arduous trek from Natchez, in the Mississippi Territory, an ordeal depicted in the narrative’s grisliest chapters. Sam, a man of few words but many thoughts, has no idea of the toll that the move will take. Over the course of this novel, Frye effectively paints his protagonist as a devoted husband and father, but he’s also shown to be stubbornly convinced that he must stick to his original plan: “There ain’t no freedom without you got land and money.” In addition, he’s effectively depicted as searching for something more spiritual. But although he’s the most fully drawn character in this novel, Sam still remains a bit of a cipher in the end. Frye offers a liberal sprinkling of crude language, graphically violent action scenes, and substantial detail regarding day-to-day activities, which brings the gritty past to life.

An engaging, sometimes-chilling, and often melancholy tale of the pioneer spirit.

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bathcat Press

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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