The Lost Order

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The Lost Order by Steve Berry (Thriller)

The Lost Order is the latest in the Cotton Malone adventure series, and what an adventure it is. Incorporating the Civil War-era secret society known as Knights of the Golden Circle and the present-day halls and back rooms of the Smithsonian Institution, this is a book full of political intrigue, ruthless treasure hunters, and steadfast individuals devoted to protecting a legacy most of us know nothing about.

Fact: In mid-nineteenth century United States, a clandestine organization of southerners known as The Knights of the Golden Circle wanted to annex territory in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean for the purpose of forming a southern empire, creating a “golden circle” of slave-holding states with its hub in Havana, Cuba. They amassed a fortune in gold and silver to finance the venture, but when the Civil War interfered, they buried their fortune in remote locations in the hopes that their plans might be resurrected someday. They left clues in the woods for those who knew how to recognize them and vested Individuals known as sentinels with the responsibility of protecting the hidden caches from treasure hunters. Confederate records, including those of the Knights, disappeared during the Civil War, and the full extent of the secret society’s reach and fortune is unknown.

Fiction: Two present-day factions of the Knights are close to finding a major vault of Confederate gold hidden in the Southwest. One faction plans to use it for nefarious purposes, the other wants to preserve it for posterity. Cotton Malone, former Justice Department agent, is called back into service because his ancestor was a Confederate spy who may be the final link to locating the vault before the Knights do. He and a former president of the United States are the last hopes for stopping a major disruption to Congress and for bringing cold-blooded killers to justice.

This book is enjoyable on many levels – as a thriller with the code-breaking aspects of The DaVinci Code, as a fascinating account of a dangerous secret society in American history, and as an insider’s romp through the back rooms, tunnels, and hidden places in the Smithsonian Institution.

Author Steve Berry is a history buff and preservationist, as well as a seasoned writer, and he also serves on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board. This heavily researched work is packed with authentic information that illuminates as well as entertains, leaving the reader with the satisfying sense of having learned something while enjoying the action that never stops. Whether it’s the workings of Congress, the existence of hidden caches of gold and silver buried across the U.S., or the fascinating history of the Smithsonian itself, Berry keeps it interesting and relevant while providing a complicated plot with plenty of dangerous players and harrowing situations.

Grandma gives The Lost Order five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost Order will be released on April 4, 2017, and is available for pre-order.

 

By Gaslight

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By Gaslight by Steven Price (Historical Fiction, Mystery)

This book does a superb job of transporting the reader to gas-lit Victorian London and post-Civil War U.S.A., as well as the diamond mines of South Africa. Steven Price’s rich and descriptive prose sets the mood and atmosphere and satisfies the reader who appreciates literary fiction. The story alternates between the viewpoints of William Pinkerton, a detective searching for the criminal who eluded his famous father, the American detective Allan Pinkerton, and Adam Foole, a conman searching for his lost love. Their paths cross, and we have a front row seat to their interactions as they pursue a common person of interest, Edward Shade.

The work is quite long, and at times I found the pace to be somewhat slow. However, each time I picked it up, I was immediately drawn back in by the language and no-holds-barred descriptions of people, places, and lifestyles that made me glad I did not live in those times. This book is not for the faint of heart. You will smell noxious fumes, witness disgusting lack of personal hygiene up close, and inspect the dismembered remains of a murdered woman. The air around you will feel heavy, you’ll be wandering dark streets in the fog, and you’ll share the main characters’ desperation when things go wrong. In short, if you enjoy historical fiction, you’ll be in your element.

Steven Price writes without the use of quotation marks to delineate dialogue, and at first that can be disconcerting. However, their absence seemed to fit with the spare, deprived, and depraved times into which this book immerses the reader, and once I became used to it, I rarely noticed their absence.

Grandma gives By Gaslight four stars.4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Mercer Girls

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Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker (Historical Fiction)

In 1864, Asa Mercer traveled from his home in Seattle to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he sought marriageable women of good character who would be willing to move to Washington Territory. Large numbers of men had migrated to this furthest frontier, but few women had done so, and the growing city needed the positive influence of “true women.” At the same time, lack of cotton due to the Civil War had silenced Lowell’s textile mills, impoverishing female mill workers as well as the families of mill owners.

Mercer Girls is a fictionalized account of three women who join Mercer’s group—Jo, Dovey, and Sophronia. Each has a different background, a different disposition, and a different reason for making the trip west. They endure hardship together and become fast friends as they travel from the East Coast to the West Coast, primarily by paddleboat with overland travel through Panama, and finally arrive in Seattle to a mixed reception from various levels of society. The book then follows them for the next seven years.

I found Mercer Girls to be an enjoyable read for the most part. The characters are well-developed, and I became invested in finding out their fates. For me, it bogged down a bit when the women’s suffrage movement and Susan Anthony’s appearance before the Washington legislature became the focus, but I stuck with it, and in the end the inclusion of suffrage was significant to the futures of the three women. The research conducted by the author is impressive, and the book is well-written. As one unfamiliar with the history of Seattle, it provided me with new knowledge, a welcome secondary benefit.

Grandma gives Mercer Girls four stars. 4 stars