One doesn’t need to be a buff of the Bard to love this well-told tale.

SHAKESPEARE AND THE LOST COLONY

Modern-day and Shakespearean-era murders align in this mystery by Shakespeare scholar Wharton.

The story opens in 1616 with Shakespeare lying upon his deathbed as a hooded and cloaked visitor approaches his bedside, leaving the reader to guess at his/her identity. The author then flashes back 22 years, when a young man and future lord, William Herbert, witnesses an experiment: an attempt by an alchemist to create the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s here that Herbert learns of the clandestine Order of the Rose Cross and the suspiciously failed endeavor by the group to colonize the New World. Among those gathered in the laboratory is Herbert’s mother, who advises him that the Order’s secrecy is imperative. Years later, Shakespeare is called on by a powerful lord to spy upon Herbert. Soon after, Herbert hears the words “rose” and “cross” in the dialogue of one of Shakespeare’s plays and assumes Shakespeare has knowledge about the secret order, as well as the lost colony. Though Shakespeare is unwitting, his interest is piqued; he soon risks life and limb to solve the mystery, and the narrative shifts into a complex whodunit. Many scenes contain sumptuous descriptions and smart dialogue. Alternating with the Shakespeare tale is an equally intriguing mystery, this one set in the present day. Charles Morgan is a divorced, disengaged composition teacher at a private college. Lionel Bunce, who is Morgan’s faculty mentor, as well as a Shakespeare expert, reveals to Morgan that he is on the brink of solving a mystery of historic proportions involving Shakespeare and “issues of state,” but he needs just one more piece to complete the puzzle. He reveals that he’s dying and makes Morgan promise that he will complete his work. But Morgan discovers that solving a centuries-old mystery is a hazardous gig; a man claiming to be a co-worker of Bunce asks for access to his writings and books. Morgan realizes that there is indeed a treasure hidden somewhere in Bunce’s dusty documents and prized books. Morgan races to unravel the mystery as he runs for his life. The ending comes to a clever full circle. With perfect pacing, the story alternates between the two engaging plotlines, and readers will find themselves turning pages at full tilt. Deliciously multifaceted, the novel is carefully constructed with a cast of unique and well-crafted characters.

One doesn’t need to be a buff of the Bard to love this well-told tale.

Pub Date: July 31, 2012

ISBN: 9781468157178

Page Count: 422

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2012

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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