REVIEWS FROM DEVORAH STONE
POSTED DECEMBER 30, 2012
A soldier coming home from war is a recurring theme in many historical novels. Except no soldier completely leaves the war. Elizabeth Pepperhawk, known to all her friends as Pepper, was formerly an army nurse with the rank of Captain, who did a tour of duty in Vietnam and knows this only too well.
The novel starts five days after the fall of Saigon. Pepper, at her homestead in Madison County, North Carolina, living with her room mates, police detective Aviva Rosen, also a Vietnam veteran, and Saul, a freelance writer, is feeling bewildered by her county's retreat. A strange woman who introduces herself as Edith Filmore comes to see her with a Vietnamese mixed race baby and a letter from an old army flame, Darby. The letter does not mention the baby's parentage but instructs her to pay the woman $3,000 later to be reimbursed from his estate. Edith tells her that she is sure Colonel Darby Baxter died before he got on the plane. Shortly after raising and delivering the money, Edith is found strangled in the clinic in which Pepper works. Someone is now after her and the baby but that's not the only surprise in her life. Aviva needs to solve this before Pepper and the baby are harmed... or worse.
In 1975, America is a country unsure of itself. The people of North Carolina cling to their traditions and manners. Yet the end of the American involvement in Vietnam, brings refuges to Madison, firing up raw emotions amongst many of the locals.
The author pieces together a tale of honor, courage, surprising altruism and survival all seen through the eyes of two brave determined strong women striving to do the right thing. It is also a story about honor and a clash of cultures, American verses Vietnamese; Army verses Civilians.
The author pulls it all together in a fast-paced book, a real page turner with so much to say about how world events affect so many people.
- Devorah Stone
Imagine walking down the streets of Florence, the City of Flowers, the center of the Renaissance, entering the homes of the great artist Botticelli and the most powerful, richest man in Europe and the most renowned arts patron that ever lived, Lorenzo D'Medici. At every corner, every turn there is great art and architecture, great libraries, artists and the beautiful women who inspire them are everywhere. Yet in 1480 there is turmoil. The City State and its fragile democracy are under stress from many external as well as internal sources.
Guid'Antonio, a lawyer, and his nephew, Amerigo, return home from two years as Ambassadors to France. Guid'Antonio wishes to spend time with his beautiful wife and a son he doesn't know, but instead he is thrust into an investigation of two events which could topple the Medici regime. One is the weeping Madonna; the Holy Virgin mysteriously sheds tears at certain suspicious times. The other is the possible murder of a beautiful young merchant's wife. These are seen as divine signs of God's and the Pope's displeasure with the Medici family -- especially Lorenzo.
Uncle and nephew walk and ride through their city and surrounding areas meeting the powerful, great and gifted along with clergy, merchants, tradesmen and servants. In their search for the truth they are often met with hostility in a town that has changed profoundly since their absence.
I was fascinated by the complicated family relations in this hot spot of civilization -- the city that made the modern world possible and yet was mired in superstition. The author's descriptions are so vivid that I saw, tasted, smelt it all. I was right there, seeing the work of Botticelli and conversing with the young Leonardo DaVinci.
Guid'Antonio explores his own city and the human heart in this story of love and loyalty of every kind. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for anyone who loves the Renaissance and a book rich in color and thought.
- Devorah Stone
POSTED FEBRUARY 28, 2013
A clumsy pawn shop heist leads Kate Shackleton to an amateur theater, a missing young actress and to murder. A MEDAL FOR MURDER is set in the 20's, but events from the Boer War have an effect on people's lives all those years later. The old generation struggles with an antiquated class system and morals and a new one, filled with promise, wants to break the mold.
An old acquaintance, the director of the play, asks Kate to take pictures of the cast; she does and attends closing night. She sits beside Lawrence Milner, the father of one of the actors, who she discovers stabbed to death on her way to the car. The next day Lucy Wolfendale, the lead actress in the play, is missing and a ransom note turns up at her grandfather's house. He is a former Boer War Captain. Kate scrambles to find out if the robbery, murder and kidnapping are related. She discovers Milner, now a successful businessman, knew the Captain during the Boer War.
This is not a fast read. It's a book to ponder on, to slowly digest and mull over. The characters are multi-faceted and complex. Yet it is compelling. I found myself asking: who are these people -- how did they come together? This is a novel about acting the part, on the stage and in real life. It is about identity: what it means to be who you are in the world and why and how we have the relationships we do. The play is a powerful metaphor in the book. Kate uses the play to unravel all three mysteries. The reader is privy to recollections from the past and the horrors of war, including the systematic oppression of the Boers at the beginning of a new century.
In the end, the greatest mysteries of this book and life are not solved and can never be. For anyone wanting to read an old fashioned mystery that's far more than a simple who-done-it, this is a must.
- Devorah Stone
Elderberry, Georgia, is like Mayberry or a Norman Rockwell painting. Everyone knows everyone, people help each other string their Christmas trees with popped corn and eat grilled cheese sandwiches at the local drug store. No one locks their doors. Still, in 1943, America is at war and horribly shaken by Pearl Harbor. Unlike Mayberry, the town is run by women, especially the school teachers, since many of the men are in the army. Super dedicated, always understanding and brilliant, Dimple Kilpatrick is everyone's favorite school teacher.
Just before Christmas, a sick child runs away looking for a cat. Dimple has a good idea where she is and she finds her close to the home of an elderly artist, Mae Martha, and her companion Suzy, who nurses the child back to health. A few days later Suzy calls Dimple to tell her Mae Martha has been murdered. The prime suspect is Suzy, making it a difficult case since Suzy is of Japanese descent. Many in the town suspect her of murder, or worse, just for that.
Dimple and her group of school marms can only prove Suzy's innocence by finding the real murderer. With Christmas on the horizon, the gals are busy hiding Suzy and interviewing relatives and neighbors of a virtual recluse. The stormy weather doesn't help and neither do nosy neighbors. Still, Dimple is undaunted, especially after paintings go missing and another corpse shows up.
The author shows all sides of small town living, from the genuine hospitality to the engrained deep seated prejudices and pettiness. It's a good easy enjoyable read, yet it also has an edge to it. The author is brutally honest about the folks she obviously loves. I felt that I was right there walking down the main street, getting lost in the woods and decorating the trees.
- Devorah Stone