The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius*****

“America is a country where race matters. The more people say they are, what, color-blind, the more it is a lie.”

thequantumspyDavid Ignatius writes gripping spy fiction, and this is his best work.  The basis of this one is the longstanding intelligence war between the CIA and its Chinese counterpart; the story is fictional, but his careful research ensures that this could have happened.  Lucky me, I read it free thanks to Edelweiss and W.W. Norton and Company Publishers. This book will be available to the public tomorrow, November 7, 2017.

Harris Chang is Chinese-American, raised to respect the red, white and blue.  He works for the CIA, and has been sent to investigate a leak in a quantum research lab. As the USA and China struggle to achieve technological dominance, tensions rise. Chang wonders if he has been chosen to investigate based on his ethnicity, since he knows very little about China or even his own family tree; why yes he has. The Chinese expect to be able to turn him because of it, and over the course of time, his bosses begin to suspect that it’s happened.  Harris is loyal, and he chafes at the unfairness of his treatment, but is determined to succeed. After all, what could prove his loyalty more clearly than to perform above the standard to which most of the Agency’s employees are held?

The setting changes constantly as spies chase other spies all over the world, but the story takes place primarily in Arlington, Virginia and in Singapore. There are also some especially tense, intriguing scenes set in Mexico, and I love the side details about Trotsky’s house, which is now a museum.

Ignatius dumbs down nothing for anyone, and so the reader should have literacy skills that are sharp and ready. Don’t read this one after you take your sleeping pill. Trust me.

The story can be read—and mostly will be, I think—as an enjoyable bit of escapism. With current events so intense, we all need some of that, and it’s what I expected when I requested the DRC. But I find it much more rewarding because of the racial subtext. It’s an area that’s important to me, and at first my back was up when I saw hints of it without knowing what the writer’s intentions were. So many are astonishingly clueless, or worse, when it comes to this aspect of fiction. But as I saw where he was taking it, I had to completely reevaluate my opinion. I would love to be surprised in exactly this way more frequently.

The ending made me want to stand up and cheer.

Highly recommended to those that love strong thrillers, and even more so for those that also cherish civil rights in the USA.

 

Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown*****

WatchMeDisappear“…how can you ever really know the truth about another person? We all write our own narratives about the people we know and love…”

Billie Flanagan is living the good life in Northern California. Her husband, Jonathan, has a lucrative career that permits her to stay home, even though Olive is now in middle school. But one day she heads out on one of her favorite hiking trails, the Pacific Crest Trail in Desolation Wilderness, and she never returns. Search and Rescue crews find a single hiking boot and a cell phone far below the trail with its screen smashed. Her bank cards and checking remain untouched. Jonathan and Olive are forced to face the truth: Billie is never coming home again. They hold the funeral, and a year later, Jonathan sits down to write a memoir of his life with Billie. It is here that we join the family.

Many thanks go to Net Galley and Random House for the invitation to read and review in exchange for this honest review. The book will be available to the public July 11, 2107.

This psychological thriller starts with daughter Olive, who is in middle school, seldom a proud or happy time for any of us. But one day Billie appears to Olive in the hallway and tells her that she should be looking harder; she isn’t trying. Olive is convinced that her mother is still alive and trying to reach her. Eventually Jonathan starts to wonder as well. Neither of them is able to move on effectively without knowing the truth, yet there it is: they have no body and they have no proof of anything. As their journeys unfold, both externally and internally, Brown develops the hell out of both of these characters and through the memories both evoke in word and thought, she develops Billie best of all. An interesting side character named Harmony rounds things out nicely.

As each layer of each character is revealed—I was planning to say it’s like having three sets of Russian nesting dolls, but that’s not right; each has many more layers than that, more like onions–the reader’s viewpoint is forced to shift from one point of view to another, and so we wonder at various times about alternate possibilities. Could Billie really be alive somewhere? Did she just up and fucking leave them? She’s done that before. She is a runner. She has been known to drop people with no warning at all, just ghost them. It was a long time ago, but it’s true.

Or is she dead at the hands of…hmm, the ex-boyfriend that surfaces at the funeral? And we wonder whether maybe Jonathan, whose memories of Billie are not all as rosy as the ones we hear at the outset, did something to harm her. And then we wonder about Billie’s friend Harmony, who moves into Jonathan’s life rapidly enough to disturb Olive considerably. She’s so needy, so hungry for his attention; would she have offed Billie in order to have a crack at him? Many of these ideas are merely hinted at rather than voiced by the narrative, and this is part of what makes it so tasty. At first, I think my idea is original because I am so smart, but then I look back, as a reviewer has to do, and I can see it’s not really about my being smart (darn), but rather about very subtle foreshadowing. Brown uses lights and mirrors to get our minds moving in different directions, and the disorientation is, in its own twisted way, part of the rush.

A last note goes to the tangential but rarely-seen moment when a character muses about why it’s so hard to find an abortion clinic when you need one. This is the reverse side of a pet peeve of mine, the commonly used notion that every accidental pregnancy necessarily must end in childbirth, as if the year were 1950 or 1960 rather than the 21st century. I wonder whether Brown had to fight to keep that reference in her novel? One way or the other, this was going to be a five star review, but when I found that courageous little nugget, I wanted to shout for joy!

As to the end…I can’t tell you what happens of course, but I will tell you that this doesn’t end ambiguously. By the conclusion, the reader knows what happened to Billie.

When all is said and done, this is fiction that every feminist can embrace. If there is a heaven, Charlotte Perkins Gilman is looking down, and she is cheering.

Lockdown, by Laurie R. King*****

lockdownI am a big fan of Laurie R. King’s contemporary thrillers, and this one is no exception. Thank you to Net Galley and Random House Ballantine for the DRC, which I read free and early in exchange for this honest review. It’s for sale today, so now everyone can read it.

King’s feminist fiction is made more delicious by her careful attention to detail. There is NEVER a single moment in which the setting—which is primarily at Guadalupe Middle School—slips and shows the reader that the Great and Powerful Oz is really just a human behind a curtain. Her magic never falters. Every fine detail regarding school schedules, culture, and protocol is true to life. This reviewer spent a couple of decades teaching in a middle school not much different from King’s fictional one, and I have never seen any novelist get everything so completely right in using school as the main setting.

As the cover suggests, this story is centered around a school shooting in California that takes place on career day. This is ticklish business to say the very least, one that authors dared not approach for a long time. Now, with Columbine significantly in our rear-view mirror but with school shootings an increasing, ever-present concern, King works it like a pro. A large measure of her success has to do with the way she builds her characters. We have a complex blend, from the school administrator, Linda McDonald; to her spouse Gordon, who has secrets that must not be revealed; to Tio, the custodian, another man that holds his cards closely; to the kids, the kids, the kids. We have Mina, the perfect student who has worries all her own, to Chaco—my personal favorite—to a host of others. By the time we reach the climax, we feel as if we know each one of these people, and so it isn’t a story of violence in the broad sense, but the fates of real people that collide.

This white-knuckle read treats issues of class, ethnicity and gender with the sensitivity one might expect from a master of the genre.  When I finish, it is replete with the satisfaction I receive at the end of Thanksgiving dinner—but this feast is one I don’t have to cook up myself, which makes it all the better. I’ve read 11 other books, mostly galleys, since I read Lockdown, and yet in my memory this one stands out as exceptionally strong fiction, the kind of book one wants to read a second time. And I know that when I do, some things will leap out from the pages brand new, because such a layered, intricate story is full of delightful niches and crannies that aren’t necessarily seen the first time through.

I wholeheartedly recommend this story to good people that love novels of suspense.  If it means you have to pay full freight—do it anyway. I would have.

The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda*****

“To get blood out, you’d have to do a deep clean. With bleach.”

the-perfectstranger

Fans of Miranda’s may rejoice, and those that haven’t read her work will have to start now. This riveting psychological thriller may leave you jumping at strange noises and sleeping with the lights burning, but oh, it will be worth it! I read this book free and in advance, thanks to an invitation from Net Galley and Simon and Schuster, but it’s available to the public Tuesday, May 16, 2017, and you won’t want to miss it. It’s the perfect story for the time in which we live, with alienation, deception, fear, and misplaced trust looming large.

Leah Stevens has some boundary issues, and it’s lost her a position in journalism. Disgraced, she decides to leave town and start over in the Pennsylvania countryside. She gets a teaching job there. A former roommate, Emmy Grey, surfaces just in time to go along with her and split the rent on a house in the woods. It’s a terrific house, but there are noises at night.

Leah says there are cats under there, scratching, scratching.

They have hardly settled in before things start to go amiss. Strange events occur that leave her frightened. When the woman’s body is dredged from the lake, Leah realizes it’s been awhile since she has seen Emmy. They work different hours, but still…shouldn’t she have seen her by now? She’s late with her share of the rent.

Leah feels as if someone is watching her at night through the glass doors at the front of the house.

This spine-tingling journey keeps me guessing every step of the way. Every time I think I see a formula starting to unspool, Miranda does something different, something I didn’t see coming. And as Leah trusts her instincts to protect her, we see for ourselves just how bad her instincts really are. Ultimately, she decides to get out of the house and ends up at the end of the road, at “the last no-tell motel”.

The plot here is taut and original, but the success of the story hinges on character. Leah’s past transgressions are vague at the outset, and we readers can tell it’s a dark time that she doesn’t like to talk about. But as the lies and the layers of deceit are peeled away one by one, we realize just how poor her sense of boundaries really is. Leah is so believable that she’s almost corporeal; I want to grab her by the wrist, haul her into the kitchen and talk to her, but even if I were able to do that, she wouldn’t listen to me.  Her personality is divided, part savvy journalist, objective and focused; half overly trusting, vulnerable waif. Her capacity for self-preservation is more limited than she knows. Is she going to make it out of this thing in one piece?

I can’t say more or I’ll ruin it for you, but this is the book you’re looking for, whether you are going to the beach or just need time to escape right here at home.

Just be sure to toss a blanket over those big glass doors before you settle in to read. Trust me.

The Postman Always Rings Twice****

thepostmanalwaysringstwiceWell, they do say karma’s a bitch.

I fell heir to a first edition hard cover copy of this classic 1934 crime fiction. It’s too well worn to be a collector’s item, so instead of selling it, I decided to just enjoy holding a book in my hands that could have been held, hypothetically, by my great-grandparents. I think I enjoyed the crispy yellow pages and the old school print more than I enjoyed the story itself.  With wide margins and plenty of dialogue, it was a quick read, and before the weekend was over I’d finished it.

Our protagonist, Frank, is a drifter that does odd jobs and occasional crimes as he travels through Mexico and the Western USA; the story itself is set in California. He comes to an out-of-the-way place where a Greek immigrant and his wife run a small roadside restaurant. The owner is interested in expanding the business to include car repair, and hopes that a free meal and a bed for the night will lure Frank to stick around and work for him. Instead, Frank stays and finds a white-hot attraction to Cora, the owner’s wife. The two of them make love like cats in a pillowcase, snarling and biting and tearing at each other, and they like it so well that they decide to kill the Greek guy so they can do it together forever.

Those that don’t follow history may not know that at the time this story was published, U.S. xenophobia toward immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe was at its pinnacle. Jim Crow and the Klan had silenced any open dissent from African-Americans with a reign of terror, but it was somewhat commonplace for Caucasians, who were by far the largest group in terms of population and certainly in terms of power and money, to make nasty assumptions and references about people from Greece, Turkey, Italy, and the surrounding area.

So it’s within that context that Cora declares that although her husband Nick loves her and treats her really well, he repulses her because he’s “a little soft greasy guy with kinky hair”. He wants her to have his baby, and she doesn’t want to touch him. She’d hate to go back to turning tricks, but she would far prefer to be with fair, blonde-haired Frank than Nick Papadakis.

The story arc here is flawless, and I can see how it became a classic, but it has many aspects that haven’t aged well. There are nasty remarks about Mexicans; Cora urgently wants Frank to know that she’s white, even though her hair is dark. She isn’t “Mex”. And although I understand that some people do like rough sex, I had to take a deep breath when Frank became aroused and showed it by blacking Cora’s eye for her.

Right. So you see what I mean.

The way the story is plotted is ingenious, and the characters are consistent all the way through; the ending is brilliantly conceived and executed.

For me, though, one reading is enough.

The Girls, by Emma Cline*****

thegirlsThe Girls is a fictionalized account of the Manson Murders, a terrible killing spree that stunned the USA in the 1960s before any mass shootings had occurred, when Americans were still reeling from the assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Manson, a career criminal with a penchant for violence yet possessed of a strange sort of charisma, attracted a number of young women and girls into a cult of his own founding. Later they would commit a series of grisly murders in the hills outside Berkeley, and it is this cult and these crimes on which Cline’s story is based. Great thanks to Net Galley and Random House for the DRC. This book will be published June 14, 2016.

Evie is an only child of the middle class; she is well provided for, but her parents have split up and her presence is getting in the way of her mother’s love life. Evie needs her mother’s attention now that she has entered her teens and so she pushes the limits in small ways, then in larger ones. When it becomes clear that her mother just doesn’t want her around, Evie looks elsewhere and finds herself drawn to a feral-looking young woman named Suzanne, who has unsuccessfully tried to shoplift something from a nearby store. Before long, Evie is sleeping on a mattress at the rural commune where Suzanne lives, eating from the communal kitchen and being used sexually by the group’s charismatic leader, and then by a man in the music industry that Russell, the founder, wants to please in the hope of having his music published.  Russell dispenses hallucinogenic drugs freely to make the girls more compliant.

We know immediately that this place, the commune, is not a good place. When we find that the babies  born to young women that live there—in this era before Roe versus Wade gave women the right to choose—are segregated from their young mothers and the pitiful way they regress and attempt to attach themselves to various females in search of a mother or mother figure, that’s a huge tell. But when Evie arrives she doesn’t want to know these things, at least not yet. All Evie wants is to be with Suzanne.

The story’s success isn’t anchored so much in the story line, a story that’s been tapped by previous writers, but in the dead-accuracy of setting, both the details of the time and in every other respect as well, from home furnishings, to slang, to clothing, to the way women were regarded by men. The women’s movement hadn’t taken root yet. This reviewer grew up during this time, and every now and then some small period bit of minutiae sparks a memory. In fact, the whole story seems almost as if a shoebox of snapshots from pre-digital days had been spilled onto the floor, then arranged in order.

The other key aspect that makes this story strong is the character development. Evie doesn’t have to live in poverty among bad people, but she feels both angry at her mother and hemmed in by the conventional expectations of her family and friends. Her boundary-testing costs her the loyalty of her best friend, really her only friend, and so she casts about for a new set of peers. Her mother prefers the fiction that she is still visiting Connie, the friend that has disowned her, and this lie provides Evie with a lot of wiggle room on evenings when her mother is with her boyfriend and finds it convenient for Evie not to be home.

As for Evie, what has started out to be an adventure, a bold experiment in branching out from the middle class suburban life she’s always known, gradually begins to darken. But the worse things get, the more important it is to her to prove her fealty to Suzanne, to not be rejected a second time as she was with Connie. Hints are dropped that probably she ought to just go back where she came from before it’s too late, but she is determined not to hear them.  I want to grab her by the sleeve and get her out of there; Evie won’t budge. Once she is in trouble at home for the things she had done on behalf of the group, her desire to avoid her home and stay with Suzanne grows even stronger, which leads her into more trouble yet. Clues are dropped that something big is going to happen, something that our protagonist maybe should avoid, but she plunges forward anyway with the bullheaded determination peculiar to adolescence.

All told, Evie’s future doesn’t look good.

Readers among the Boomer generation will love this book for its striking accuracy; those that are younger will feel as if they have traveled to a time and place they have never seen before. One way or another, Cline’s masterful storytelling weaves a powerful spell that doesn’t let go until the last page is turned. Riveting, and highly recommended.

A Cold White Fear, by RJ Harlick***

acoldwhitefearMeg is alone with a 12 year old in her isolated cabin during a Canadian blizzard, when three escaped prisoners land on her doorstep, one of them injured. She helps dress the wound of the injured man, but then is held hostage, along with Jid, who is like a son to her, and her puppy. This mystery is the seventh in a series, but it was the first I had read, and it is easy to follow as a stand-alone thriller. Thank you to Net Galley and Dundurn Publishers for the DRC, and my apologies in being so tardy with my review. The book has been released and is available for purchase now.

Those that enjoyed The Shawshank Redemption or that are fans of Val McDermid’s mystery series will probably enjoy this story a great deal.

Each of us has a threshold of tolerance for how much terror and violence they can stand in a novel before it stops being entertaining and starts to be just scary and violent. That’s what happened to me here. Roughly eighty percent of this book is set in and near Meg’s cabin, with one aborted effort at escape after another; the writer wants us to also be worried about the puppy, and she played the card well, maybe too well for me. The small moments in which interesting tidbits of Algonquin culture are released, or in which one of the escapees does some small, compassionate deed are eclipsed by the sheer weight of the isolation and brutality present, and I finally got to where I could not stand it anymore around the 65 percent mark, and I skipped to the end and traced it back. That said, I also know that my own tolerance is lower than most. I watch very little television and few movies, and so a little goes a long way where I am concerned.

Harlick deserves a lot of credit for being able to spin a linear plot line with a limited setting, time span, and for most of the story with a limited number of characters. She never loses the reader’s interest or wanders off on a tangent; her facility with setting is good, and the tangibility of the place and people add to the terror experienced by the reader on behalf of the protagonist.

Scary-as-hell fiction from a series writer worth following in years to come.

All In, by Joel Goldman and Lisa Klink *****

all inThis one is 4.75 stars, rounded up. Thank you to Net Galley and to Thomas and Mercer for the DRC. This absorbing thriller will be available September 8 for purchase.

Cassie Ireland is an asset recovery specialist; she views herself as a modern-day Robin Hood whose job it is to steal back money, goods, or even really embarrassing videos from those that originally stole them. Her employer is a shadowy individual code-named Prometheus–a moniker chosen because Prometheus was the sneak thief of the gods. Ireland’s nimble, silent in her work, and careful in trusting others. She really can’t be played.

Her job here is to steal select items from the home safe of crooked-wealthy magnate Alan Kendrick. In order to gain access to his treasure trove, she must first make it past a sophisticated security system, to which she gains access by deceiving Kendrick’s wife, Gina. Once Cassie found her way into that safe, I stopped breathing until she was out again. I think my fingertips turned blue. But once she’s been in and out, things once more begin to unspool at a heart-pounding pace.

Jake Carter is a professional gambler, and he too has a grudge to settle with Alan Kendrick. He plans to beat him at poker; he’s fast, smart, and fair. Unfortunately, the last whale he took down has sent goons after him. They want the money he took from Theo at the table, and they also want him dead. Jake’s challenge is to go after Kendrick while dodging Theo’s assassins.

Ultimately, Cassie, Jake, Theo and Kendrick all land on the same enormous floating gambling casino. You can run…but only so far. You can hide, but sooner or later, you’ll be found. On the other hand, you can also turn your stalkers into your prey, if you’re cunning and well organized, and if you can gain the loyalty of others nearby. And then too, you might be able to grab a helicopter!

All In is fast, escapist fun. Ordinarily I would call this a four-star review. Four stars are my default for books that are anywhere from pretty good to really good, but that don’t meet the gold standard of five stars. My four star reviews are big houses with a lot of rooms. If I hate a book but concede that others are likely to enjoy it, I will go with four stars and explain what I didn’t like. I also give four star reviews to books like this one that I like a lot, but can’t see them as the very epitome of their genre. Five stars means excellence that is above and beyond ordinary work.

The tipping point here that knocked this up to five stars is the use of race and gender. Nobody wants to be preached at in the middle of a thriller, and Goldman and Klink don’t do that. Rather, it is by the assumptions that are inherent in their choice of protagonist (Ireland is African-American, female, smart as hell and way more fit than any gum shoe I can recall); the way the plot unfolds, with no helpless damsels waiting for great big men to come save them; and the way secondary characters are handled, the butler foremost among them. It reminded me a bit of Barbara Neely’s writing, and so I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Fall is coming, and whether you are still basking in the sun on weekends or huddled by a fire, it’s a great time to treat yourself to a tightly paced, accessible thriller by authors that show their respect for all people, especially the working class, in the way they sculpt their characters and plot. It looks like a winner to me.

Why not order it while you can?

Trust No One, by Paul Cleave *****

trustnooneMany times my daughter has come upon me reading a book and asked, “How is it?” And almost every time I have said, “I don’t know. I haven’t read the end yet.” This is completely true for this one. And oh my my my, what an ending. No, stop worrying, I have no intention of giving away anything.

But I will thank Net Galley and Atria Books. I appreciate the opportunity to read a free DRC in exchange for this honest review.

You can purchase this book Tuesday, August 4, or you could save the hassle and order it now.

Above all…you don’t want to forget. If you forget this, you might be forgetting other things, too. That’s a slippery slope that nobody wants to slide down.

Jerry is just 49 years old, and he has Alzheimer’s. After the diagnosis, he starts a journal, partially with the idea of recording all the things he doesn’t want to forget so that he can come back and find them later. But fate has other ideas for our protagonist, and for his nom de plume, Henry Cutter–a cute play on the actual author’s name…or is it his pen name?

As we find ourselves gradually creeping down that long dark tunnel with poor Jerry, the journal becomes more and more confused. Is he a killer? If so, how many people has he killed? Why can’t he remember doing any of it?

But then, he can’t remember much of anything these days…

Trust No One is a brilliantly paced, tautly written piece of psychological fiction, and it is proof that, contrary to the old saying, not all stories have already been written. And the title answers his question, a very good question: who can he trust?

The problem here is that someone in Jerry’s position has to be able to trust someone. And as the plot moves further along, the reader can’t help wondering whether all of the characters in the story actually exist.

Those searching for an absorbing vacation read—or even one to curl up with at home, hunkered under the air conditioner or fan on a dog-hot day—can’t really ask for anything better than this. Cleave gives the reader every possible frisson in this impossibly complex, yet strangely accessible novel.

Highly recommended.

Killing Maine, by Mike Bond ***

killingmaineNote: Usually my blog is reserved for books I recommend, that merit 4 or 5 stars. Once in awhile I review a galley and find that my obligation to the author and publisher have bumped up against my blog policy. This is one of those times.

Killing Maine is a thriller, and like the one other book by this author that I’ve read, it’s a tale of grief, alienation, and grave concern regarding environmental degradation. Thank you once to Net Galley, then again to Mandevilla Press for the DRC. This novel can be purchased July 21.

The story starts out in high gear. Our protagonist, Pono Hawkins, has been called from his home in Hawaii to Maine. A man who saved his life during his years in military service has been jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. Pono has done time twice, and both times he was innocent. He’s been exonerated, and yet still has a criminal background that comes up when cops run him through the system. And as he talks about the ways in which America’s so-called justice system is broken, I hear him loud and clear.

From there, however, he takes the plot all over the place. There are three different women, and he falls madly in love with one named Abigail, but there is so little of substance about their first meeting that instead of engaging, I’m left scratching my head. Seriously?

Most of the plot, which takes wing when someone is shooting at him out in the frozen Maine hinterland, is built around the wind power industry, which is referred to here as the “Wind Mafia” and “Big Wind”. But instead of using it to move the plot forward, there is so much repetition that it seems to bog us down. He lays it on thickly enough that at the beginning I wonder what can be done about problems involving the use of wind energy and the environmental problems he tells us it creates. We have to have some form of energy other than fossil fuels, right? Coal is a bad solution. Hydroelectric power can only take us so far, especially with global warming causing some water sources to dry up, or nearly so. And so I am on board, and I am thinking about the problems with wind (politicians being corrupted by big businesses, be they wind or something else, seems like a given these days, and didn’t particularly move me), and wondering what alternatives we might have.

Bond uses the novel to address about half a dozen social and political issues—the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; lousy medical treatment of veterans; Agent Orange and Vietnam; and of course, environmental despoliation—and for ninety percent of the book, I am in complete agreement with him on all the issues he raises. How will a reviewer that disagrees with some or all of it see this novel?

Because when we come back around to Pono, the plot has so many holes in it. Pono doesn’t like Bucky, the man he has come to rescue, and Bucky will no longer see him when he drives to the jail to visit. The local heat is starting to harass him, and if he doesn’t leave the state soon, they’re going to tell him he can’t leave. Meanwhile, he is due in Fiji in a few weeks for a tsunami; he’s been hired to do a job there. And since there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of anything—the guy he doesn’t like that won’t see him; an old flame is one he’s decided not to rekindle—I can’t figure out why the protagonist wouldn’t just get on the plane and head for Fiji early. Surely he doesn’t genuinely believe that one man can derail the entire wind industry, along with the governor, senators, and other heavy-duty politicos, by himself and with the law hot on his trail.

Meanwhile, the writer continues to rail against “Big Wind” until I just want to throw up my hands and call it quits. And to be honest, were I not obligated to review the book, I probably would have just abandoned it at the point where the environmental concern turned into a diatribe. Enough, enough. I get it.

But I do read it, and so we continue, and there is one scene that seems real and is wonderfully done, in the midst of all of this other stuff, and that is the farewell scene between Pono and his dying father, which is poignant and moving; entirely authentic. It’s hard to see what schism makes it possible to write that scene so well and yet have so many plot problems elsewhere.

Had I still been on board at the point where he speaks about Gone With the Wind as if it is historically accurate, and paints General Sherman, one of my own greatest heroes, as a man who went in and wrecked everything, using the whole thing as a misbegotten metaphor for Maine, I think I would have stepped back a bit. If a novelist wants to be accurate with his real-world facts, then get all of them straight. But the fact is, after about the first half of the book I wasn’t really on board.

Readers of Bond’s who have grown fond of his writing style may have a good time here. For me, it seemed like a good opportunity lost.