An Untimely Frost is a well-written story of a courageous and unconventional woman character in 1881 Chicago. Lilly Long is haunted by the tragic history of her mother, murdered when Lilly was just 11 years old. Raised by a kindly couple who become surrogate parents, Lilly’s life has progressed well–until now. She has made a career for herself as a Shakespearean actress, and was married just four months ago to–she thought–the man of her dreams.
But the dream turns out to be more of a nightmare; her new husband robbed her of all her savings and then deserted her. Heartbroken, Lilly decides on a challenging new direction. Using her considerable acting skills and steely determination, she succeeds in being hired as a Pinkerton agent, and after a short training period she is sent on her first assignment.
As is often the case in such tales the assignment seems simple enough–locate the owners of a deserted house named Heaven’s Gate, owned by a pastor who has apparently disappeared, leaving stories of treachery and deceit in his wake. Going to the town of Vandalia, Lilly starts on her course of discovery. But she finds that people in the town are reluctant to discuss the disgraced minister and his family. Visits to the ghostly, deserted Heaven’s Gate yield few clues. Lilly is about to report back to the Pinkerton agency that she has been unsuccessful in her quest. But just on the brink of leaving, things start to change, and Lilly finds clues that lead her on, to a startling conclusion that nearly costs her life.
This is a book that will appeal to fans of historical fiction and admirers of resourceful female protagonists.
My thanks to the publishers for making this advance copy available for me to read and review.
I have to apologize to NetGalley and Farrago. Farrago has graciously auto-approved me for its NetGalley offerings. For that, I am truly grateful. I LOVE the Miss Seeton books, also published by Farrago. But this book and I are just not a good fit
I made it through about two chapters. The author sets an exotic scene in 1970s Hong Kong, and indeed he writes with humor. But the humor is a bit too dark for me. Once I encountered bodies dismembered by meat axe and another scene of amputated fingers, I was done.
I think this is likely an excellent book judging from comments of other readers. But it’s not for me.
Miss Seton sings. Yes, she certainly does. The author seems quite fond of classical musical references: we have elements of Bizet’s Carmen in “Picture Miss Seton” and now a bit of Rimsky-Korsakov becomes an important thread.
This story finds our Miss Seton flying out of her comfy village life. There is a problem with counterfeiting, and the powers that be see fit to send Miss Seton to confer with officers of a Geneva bank about the problem. Seems simple enough. But it isn’t, of course. For one thing, Miss Seton’s fame has preceded her and stories of her valor and cunning have created all manner of misperceptions. This story is awash with plots and counterplots, counterfeiting, art theft and jewelry scams. There is an extensive international cast of authorities, officers, agents, police, and bad guys. Misunderstanding and misdirection abound. Miss Seton visits Geneva, Genoa, Paris, and London (including an onstage cameo appearance in a revue at the Casino de Paris). She faithfully follows her earnest path amid the voluminous drama surrounding her. Poor Miss Seeton finds herself with “a sense of becoming a shuttlecock, airborne in a game the rules of which had not been explained.” It is said we each have a guardian angel. Miss Seton must have a dedicated angelic squadron assigned to her, as she always seems to emerge unscathed or with a few minor bumps scrapes. Some of her valiant defenders, alas, are not so fortunate. And the villains of the piece don’t end up well at all.
It is all quite outrageous and far over the top. And terribly funny. My biggest problem in reading the book was that I frequently found myself laughing so hard I couldn’t see the page for the tears in my eyes. Bravo, Mr. Carvic!
In creating Reed Ferguson, the author has provided us with an appealing Sam Spade wannabe, a big fan of old detective novels and classic film noir. Inspired by his fictional heroes, Reed decides to open a detective agency. He doesn’t need the money–he has a nice inheritance from his “obscenely rich” grandparents. But Reed has never been successful in his work, despite his law degree. He’d like to change that and, incidentally prove his worth to himself and his parents.
His first case involves Amanda Ghering, a ditsy but attractive blonde (with dark roots) who wants Reed to find her dead husband. Reed senses Amanda will be trouble, and he’s right. It doesn’t take him long to discover Amanda is lying and she drinks too much. But a job is a job, so Reed persists, and runs into situations he never found in the movies.
Ultimately, with the help of his loyal but not over-bright neighbors and Cal, a reclusive computer supergeek, Reed finds answers from Bogie and Lauren Bacall and The Big Sleep. Oh, he also encounters a gaggle of police, real and fake, and a bunch of bad guys and gals.
The book reads like it’s channeling Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Bogie, The Maltese Falcon, and (especially) The Big Sleep. Fans of realistic police procedurals will likely find many flaws in Reed’s methods. But they should lighten up because that doesn’t matter. Ultimately, it’s just great fun.
Where to start with this over-the-top, but remarkably enjoyable, book? Maybe with the title. The thought processes of some characters are certainly curious, including those of the eccentric multibillionaire Emerson Knight. But at least with Emerson we sense that he, like Hamlet, has method in his madness. Other minds (mostly the bad guys’) lurch ominously beyond curious into downright pathological. The curiosity of our heroine, red-haired Riley Moon, is aroused as she strives to fulfill Emerson’s stated desire to view his gold reserves. The story itself certainly gets curiouser and curiouser, like Alice’s Wonderland. Besides channeling the inspired lunacy of Lewis Carroll, reminders of other classics from children’s lit abound: the reckless runs of Mr. Toad; Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and Dorothy’s determined trek through Oz.
Dorothy/Alice’s role in this story is played by freshly minted Harvard grad, feisty Texas transplant Riley Moon. True, there’s no lion, but there are zebras; an armadillo instead of a scarecrow; no Tin Woodman but lots and lots of gold. Standing in for Auntie Em is Aunt Myra, who proves her worth as the countrywide saga plays out. The Wizard? Oh, that would be the transcendental and resourceful Mr. Knight.
We aren’t provided with a yellow brick road, but the comprehensive collection of vehicles used along the way should satisfy the most avid car fancier. We visit the highs and lows of Manhattan; view with awe the gilded vaults of the Federal Reserve, continuing right on through to Las Vegas and Area 51. It appears this is just the first of the adventures of Knight and Moon; it will be intriguing to see how these splendidly inventive authors can top themselves. They have set a high mark.
My thanks to the authors, publisher, and NetGalley for making an advance copy of this book available to me for review.
It all starts with Maggie Dove’s oak tree–the one her father planted when she was just a girl. When her unfriendly neighbor Marcus Bender starts pushing her to either chop the tree down or move it, gentle Maggie becomes very angry. But when Marcus ends up lying dead under that oak tree, Maggie’s world is turned upside down.
Maggie, 62, was a very successful writer of mysteries, but her writing career was cut short by the death of her beloved husband, followed by the tragic loss of her beautiful only daughter Juliet. Maggie retired, has a comfortable if circumscribed life in her village, shadowed for years by her grief and loss, although she continues to be a Sunday School teacher.
But Marcus’ death is found to be murder; life in the village becomes more complicated and even dangerous. Maggie’s dormant sleuthing instincts are awakened as she starts following lines of questions. One by one, potential suspects are reviewed and discarded, until only one remains. Maggie finds that her life is forever changed by her experiences as her cloistered life expands to embrace new friends and new challenges. This is an entertaining, intriguing, and ultimately heartwarming story.
My thanks to the publisher who made this advance copy available to me through NetGalley.
Girls and boys, come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day;
Leave your supper and leave your sleep,
And come with your play-fellows into the street
Play is vitally important to children. The singing game quoted above dates from at least the early 18th century, a time when most children worked all day. Here, they are exhorted to leave their supper and sleep in favor of playing in the moonlit streets.
Children have played since ancient times. There are Biblical descriptions of children playing in the streets, and of Wisdom playing in the world at the dawn of creation. In ancient Egypt, the tomb of the boy Pharaoh Tutankhamun was filled with treasure and playthings for the young King’s final journey.
Children play in the midst of war. During World War II, Anna Freud was in England, caring for children who had experienced air raids, were separated from their mothers, and had varying experiences of disruption and loss in their family lives. But Freud writes descriptions of children playing joyfully in bomb sites and throwing bricks retrieved from crumbled walls.
Children play when there is nothing to play with. Ella Lyman Cabot (1921) relates the story of settling her three-year-old daughter for an afternoon nap. Tiptoeing back an hour later, she was met with merry sounds. Mystified, she opened the door and found that the resourceful tot had removed a lacing from one of her shoes and had transformed her right foot into a spirited steed racing at great speed, controlled by shoe-string reins.
Play is essential for the child’s development. In 2011 the developmental and relational importance of play was reaffirmed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Cabot, E. L. (1921). The art of play. In Seven ages of childhood (pp. 28-39). Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company/The Riverside Press Cambridge. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.books/
Freud, A., & Burlingham, D. T. (1943). Children and war. New York: Medical War Books/ Ernst Willard.
Milteer, R. M., Ginsberg, K. R. American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health (2011). Pediatrics; originally published online December 26, 2011; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-2953 Retrieved at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/12/21/peds.2011-2953