Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Review: the Hidden Man

Here's the last of my three reviews in this month's Historical Novels Review.


Anthony Flacco, Ballantine Books, $14.00, pb, 275pp, 978-0-8129-7758-5

Nine years after San Francisco’s great earthquake and fires, the city is just beginning to be reborn and is full of possibility. Against this backdrop, and the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exhibition, Detective Randall Blackburn and his adoptive children Shane and Vignette Nightingale struggle to understand their places in the world – all while protecting the famous mesmerist James “J.D.” Duncan from a threat only he can see.

Though this book is a sequel to The Last Nightingale, reading the first book is not a prerequisite (I did not). The setting and concept had a great deal of potential; sadly, I do not think the execution capitalizes on either.

The setting – both time and place – felt like props rather than integral parts of the story; I never felt a real sense of place or time, though the details were strewn throughout. The same can be said for the characters: I wanted very much to care about them and their plight (particularly Shane), but I just couldn’t connect with them – they felt very much like props themselves.

The potentially interesting characters were done a real disservice with a flimsy plot and sluggish pacing. The book is serviceably written, but could have used a much stronger hand in editing, for continuity, content (so many long expository passages!), and line editing.

Overall the book is enjoyable enough, though I would recommend it only for historical fiction fans who want a quick read in between works with more depth.

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