A well-told, if idiosyncratic, family drama with an unsolved killing at its center.

WHERE SIN INCREASED

BUT WHERE SIN INCREASED, GRACE INCREASED ALL THE MORE. ROMANS 5:20

A murder mystery unfolds over multiple generations of a Maine family in this novel.

Winterhaven, Maine, 1958. The Therberges are wracked with grief after their missing daughter, 8-year-old Mary Sue, is found dead beneath a granite boulder. Police attention turns to her brother, John Daniel, 10, the last known person to see her alive. When the case goes cold, private investigator Rocky O’Hara, recently of Atlanta and now of Portland, Maine, is asked by Margaret Powell, a relative of the Therberges, to offer a new perspective on the murder. Rocky is fresh from a similar homicide case in Georgia—one disturbing enough that it caused him to leave his home state for a new life in New England—and he’s committed to bringing Mary Sue’s killer to justice. Meanwhile, John Daniel—whose activities include burying cats alive in his grandmother’s garden and lighting fires in his bedroom closet—appears to know more about the crime than he’s letting on, and his mother seems bent on directing any suspicion away from her son. She isn’t the only family member who suddenly seems uninterested in finding the culprit. Margaret lets Rocky know that his services are no longer needed: “Casting his mind back to that first encounter in his office, he never would have imagined that lady ever giving up…ever. So, what happened? What changed? Did some horrible family secret become known to Margaret which she felt bound to keep secret?” But Rocky’s history with the case is just beginning: The murder of Mary Sue will haunt John Daniel—or JD, as he’s known in adulthood—and the rest of the Therberge family all the way into the 21st century. Baumgardner’s (Languid Lilies, 2019, etc.) prose is detailed and sharp, particularly in her economical descriptions of her characters, including John Daniel’s grandfather: “Grampy has control of his life and everyone in it. Mama says he even has God in his hip pocket. This boy will watch Grampy and learn the trick. That God thing just might be the key.” Her rendering of the deeply disturbed and unexpectedly complex John Daniel is particularly riveting, and she manages to wring a horror novel’s worth of tension from his relationships over the course of the tale. Rocky is more familiar fare: a genre detective in a book that isn’t really a genre offering, though he provides a welcome change of pace from some of the story’s more brooding sections. Threading through the work is a strong religious theme, which is more effective in explaining some of the characters’ motivations than it is at supplying a philosophical underpinning for the events. The tone vacillates from sections of polished verisimilitude to clunky encounters—reminiscent, in some ways, of Maine’s best known writer of dark tales, Stephen King. There are elements here that feel coincidental or contrived, and John Daniel’s psychology might not square exactly with one found in a profiler’s manual. But Baumgardner weaves an unorthodox mystery tale that will keep readers invested through the fallow periods and surprising time jumps.

A well-told, if idiosyncratic, family drama with an unsolved killing at its center.

Pub Date: April 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-09-570150-8

Page Count: 445

Publisher: Encircle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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