One Came Home by Amy Timberlake; Alfred A. Knopf; 253 pages ($16.99) Ages 9 and up.
This marvelous tale of the Wild West that was Wisconsin in 1871 has a murder mystery, a memorable heroine, and most of all, a fascinating backdrop, of passenger pigeon migration and the “pigeoners” that followed the birds. (The author identifies herself as a birder first and a writer third, and includes fascinating notes about the record nesting of 1871, that by one account may have included all the passenger pigeons in North America and covered 850 square miles.) Somewhat reiminiscent of Charles Portis’ classic “True Grit,” as the story of a stubborn adolescent looking for justice, the novel comes alive as the voice of 13-year-old Georgie Burkhardt, who is known for being a deadshot with her Springfield rifle. She is also famous for her talent for keeping accounts at her family’s general store – and for speaking her mind. So when she sees her older sister, Agatha, kissing a former boyfriend, Georgie takes it upon herself to let wealthy Benjamin Olmstead know what his fiancee is up to. Then Agatha runs off, a mangled body is brought back wearing Agatha’s distinctive blue-green ball gown and everybody seems to believe Agatha is dead - except for Georgie, who sets out with Agatha’s former boyfriend, her rifle and a picture of Agatha, on a quest to figure out what really happened to her sister. The writing is fresh and funny (“a fresh pile of horse apples confettied with flies”). Timberlake has plotted a compelling mystery and coming-of-age tale, and the page-turning suspense yields to a satisfying conclusion, wrapping in almost as an afterthought another 1871 event, the deadly firestorms that devastated Chicago and small towns along the Wisconsin shoreline of Lake Michigan.
– Jean Westmoore
Farewell to Freedom by Sara Blaedel; Pegasus Crime, 384 pages ($25)
Sara Blaedel has been called “the queen of Danish crime fiction,” a title she proves she has earned in her third novel to be published in the United States.
In “Farewell to Freedom,” Blaedel uses the tenets of the hard-boiled novel to deliver a well-plotted, action tale about how war crimes and human trafficking have found a way to infect Denmark. Blaedel gracefully shows how the personal toll and effect of such crimes can reverberate for years. Blaedel also enhances “Farewell to Freedom” by exploring a deep friendship between two women, one a police detective and the other a journalist, and how the two balance their personal and professional lives.
Police Detective Louise Rick almost doesn’t answer a call from her journalist friend Camilla Lind because she assumes Lind wants inside information on a young woman’s murder.
But Camilla wants to report another crime — her 11-year-old son has found an abandoned baby on church steps. The little girl is fine and quickly placed with a good foster family as the police try to sort out who left the child. The case leads to an underground crime syndicate in which young women from Eastern Europe are forced into prostitution and their babies treated as collateral damage.
Louise follows the evidence while Camilla conducts a parallel investigation. The case leads to a mysterious criminal who makes a lucrative living from human misery. The story especially becomes personal for Camilla as she helps her son deal with the trauma of finding the infant. Camilla’s growing relationship with Henrik Holm, a minister at whose church the child was found, adds to the story.
Blaedel infuses “Farewell to Freedom” with a solid look at her native country. The author depicts a Copenhagen that most tourists never see, a city constantly battling an influx of Eastern European gangsters without regard for human life.
– McClatchy Newspapers