Antiquarians, survivalists, a media mogul, a travel writer and assorted ruthless killers chase each other around New England in search of an early draft of the United States Constitution.
Peter Fallon, the debonair, enterprising dealer in rare books and papers last seen in Harvard Yard (2003), is asked to find a copy of that early draft, complete with useful marginal notes, that went missing at the beginning of the Constitutional Convention. The antiquarian concludes that the best way to find the valuable document is to figure out where it’s been over the last couple of centuries, so Fallon’s present-day detective work (ably assisted by travel-writing lady-love Evangeline Carrington) alternates with a chronicle of how the copy went missing and the route of its travels. That itinerary hangs on the history of Massachusetts’ Pike family and its involvement in Shays’ Rebellion, a dramatic post-revolutionary, pre-convention insurrection. Will Pike’s lawyerly ambitions keep him out of the rebellion, but his big, scary older brother North is much involved. Will gets work as a clerk to convention delegate Rufus King, who entrusts him with the draft, which brother North promptly filches. This is the first in a series of thefts, recoveries and re-thefts leading to the present day, when the draft is lusted after by ideologues of various stripes who hope that those penciled notes will buttress such causes as gun control and the establishment of Christianity as the National Church. The search turns over many stones and opens many closets as the clock ticks toward Fallon’s deadline, the first game of the World Series. Boston’s up.
Martin’s unabashedly mid-20th-century mainstream fiction style is perfectly suited to this wedding of multigenerational saga and detective drama.