My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Note to Readers: This review is part of my Amazon Vine series of reviews.
B. Kent Anderson’s first novel Cold Glory (Tom Doherty 2011) is not the typical mystery/thriller.While the story deals with an unsolved mystery, uses murders and bad guys to move the plot forward, the characters are developed as you might see in literary fiction–with lots of internal pensiveness and personal problems that interfere with the main plot line, but Anderson’s prologue does such a good job of drawing readers in that I had to read until I could uncover the tie-ins.
Nick Journey, a small town college professor and expert in the Civil War, is asked to review newly-discovered arms and documents uncovered in Oklahoma. When his story hits the news, someone tries to kill him and his family is threatened. When he decides his best defense is to solve the mystery of why someone cares enough about the documents to threaten him, he ends up on a cross-country chase accompanied by FBI agent Meg Tolman, racing against time to resolve the clues before the shadowy men threatening him can unfurl the fullness of their plan.You get a good sense of the two main characters in this verbal exchange: “I don’t know if I can guarantee your safety (Journey talking to Tolman).” “I’ll guarantee my own safety (Tolman responding).”
Yes, that sounds like the fodder of a typical mystery/thriller, but just as the plot is quickening, Anderson stumbles, interjecting plot pieces or descriptions as though he’s trying too hard to fulfill the thriller genre. For example, Journey’s office is ransacked and Anderson attempts to extend the threat beyond his main character to Journey’s handicapped son by saying, “The fissure in the glass slashed directly across the boy’s face.” This is an obvious reference to the boy’s safety, one which is repeated throughout the story with no real result. Anderson has some difficulty fully fleshing out his characters, despite both Journey and Tolman having appealing side-lives, the former raising an autistic son and the latter trying to develop a part-time career as a concert pianist. Somehow, they failed to garner my empathy. Additionally, Anderson has difficulty pacing the story, breaking often from the main plot to delve into side stories. These interrupt the plot’s rhythm and thus the tension. Meg Tolman musing over her weekend plans and Nick Journey toddling through the daily events in his boy’s life are interesting in their own way, but don’t contribute to the rising sense of fear that usually accompanies a mystery/thriller.
Interestedly enough and despite my difficulties with the character development and pace, when I finished the book, I realized I had experienced a wonderful story. It is not the typical mystery/thriller, but one with the author’s signature, off-center and appealing in its own unique way. In what other mystery/thriller would you read, “He changed Andrew and popped in a CD for him. It was approaching five o’clock and he needed to start thinking about dinner. It was strange, he thought, how in the midst of secret societies and weapons caches and thoughts about running down that gunman, life could still be rooted in the ordinary, in things every other parent did–finding something their child would eat.” I found I liked this approach and Anderson’s courage for writing it.
One issue I couldn’t resolve was Nick Journey himself. He is depicted as an out-of-shape professor whose minor league baseball days are far in his rear view mirror, but manages to outrun ex-Special Forces operatives, outwit criminal masterminds and out-think his adversary on a regular basis. I liked his cleverness, ingenuity, but was pretty confused by him.
Overall, if you’re a Civil War buff, you’re going to love the history contained in this story. If you aren’t, you’ll love the story anyway.
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.