Murder and mystery abound in this engrossing and atmospheric tale set in 18th-century England.
Fifteen-year-old Caleb Chappell is a mixed-race boy whose life is shrouded in mystery. He knows nothing about his black mother, and his white father—a talented puppeteer—is the son of a disgraced earl but never discusses his past. When his father is falsely convicted of theft, Caleb is forced to seek protection from a hitherto-unknown paternal aunt who married a sailor and resides with her stepdaughter in a small port town. After settling into his new life, Caleb receives a shock when a body bearing his father’s signet ring washes up on the shore. Though he knows the corpse is his father, everyone in the town, from the parson to the local lord of the manor, is determined to convince Caleb otherwise. In her latest novel, Carnegie Medalist Landman (Buffalo Soldier, 2014) crafts a scintillating story of corruption headed by a winsome and tenacious protagonist. The author’s concise descriptions of the sea’s frightening vastness, the confining and insulated spirit of the small English town, and the provincial xenophobic attitudes of its denizens are almost cinematic in scope. Often mistaken for a slave, Caleb must endure whispers and pointed racism that are as historically accurate as they are disheartening.
So riveting that the pages seem to turn of their own accord. (Fiction. 13-adult)