Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Echo of Twilight: A Novel by Judith Kinghorn

The Echo of Twilight: A Novel.  Judith Kinghorn. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 400 pp. ISBN #: 9780451472106.

Pearl Gibson loves to travel, to move up, to make up names for herself and tales she tells strangers, lying to embellish and enchant mundane reality!  She’s good at it or perhaps one should say she was good at it until she was caught in one of her brilliant fabrications.  On the way to interview for a job as a lady’s maid, she gives her name as Ottoline, the name of her soon to be employer, to a fine looking man she meets at a railroad station.  Just a stranger, right? Ha!

In fact, the real Ottoline Campbell who hires Pearl is a unique woman who does exactly as she pleases during an era when women’s roles were quite circumscribed.  Ottoline’s attitude to Pearl from the very beginning is more of a friend than employer, although when displeased she lets Pearl know her place.  Very quickly, Pearl learns about the family secrets but it isn’t her place to comment.  Pearl then meets a family relative and they immediately bond.  Now Ottoline has a secret that binds her to Pearl even deeper, a truth that is unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view, shunted to the side with the beginning of World War I in 1914.  Ottoline’s sons and so many other sons in the area join the military fight out of patriotic duty. Some will die; some will return as scarred, traumatized wrecks! Pearl soon has a secret that she entrusts to Ottoline, who now evolves into Pearl’s protector and more than friend.

Pearl’s tension from the war and its shocking effects builds up until one day she breaks and spews out what she perceives as the truth, an act that mandates she leave the Campbell home to become the independent woman she needs to be.  Years later, she will return under totally unexpected circumstances.

This story has been told many times before this novel was written.  The essence of this story, however, is quite unique.  What rules our lives – fate, destiny, choices, rebellion, conformity – what?  Judith Kinghorn is a very skilled author who crafts a mesmerizing account of how the vicissitudes of life dramatically shift during wartime.  Every character is dramatically changed forever and the reader is honored to have shared the dramatic lives within these pages.

The Echo of Twilight is an amazing work of historical fiction that this reviewer highly recommends!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock: A Samuel Craddock Mystery Prequel by Terry Shames

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock: A Samuel Craddock Mystery Prequel.  Terry Shames. Prometheus Books. January 2017. 270 pp. ISBN #: 9781633882096.

Samuel Craddock has recently been appointed Chief of Police in small town Jarret Creek, Texas.  Some treat him with respect and others scorn his office as he’s in his 30s, a very young age compared to most law officers in the area.  Because there’s not much crime locally, for the most part, Sam decides to try his hand at raising a few head of cattle.  He and his wife are about to welcome the delivery of these bovine additions to their family when he receives a call about a fire and something that should be seen immediately.  What he finds is so far beyond his recent experience in the Air Force, a grisly fire that burns five people to death and one of them has clearly been shot at point-blank range!

This then is the story of how Sam bypasses and gingerly maneuvers around the flagrant racial prejudice of another law officer and several people in the town, the rambunctious journalist who will do anything for an exciting story like this, corruption in the town, a major drug problem in the local high school, and those who do everything possible to impede Sam’s independent investigation of the fire and murders.  Add to that Sam’s dysfunctional family with a nephew who desperately needs some tender loving care beyond his own parents. 

It's not just racial prejudice that’s rampant in Jarret Creek.  Certain “important” families think that their high status means they are untouchable when it comes to breaking the law.  It’s not until a crisis happens that Sam’s determined nature begins to transform from insecurity to maturity. 

Crimes in these types of legal thrillers or mysteries are almost always solved and the surprise involves unusual investigative techniques and the unpredictability of the perpetrator or perpetrators.  However, there’s another element here, the abandoning of stereotyping everyone with the same brush.  So Sam gives the reader hope that lack of prejudice clears one’s mind to see things objectively and thus connect links toward a solution that not only solves the crime but also serves as a teaching moment for many who may have spurned such previous moments.  

Nicely crafted Terry Shames!  This is a prequel to six other Sam Craddock mysteries – happy reading all!