“Dreamland” by Nancy Bilyeau

Genre:  Historical Fiction Murder Thriller Dreamland
Publisher:  Endeavour Media
Pub. Date:  January 16, 2020

Mini-Review

I had some disappointment with this novel. I thought it would be a shoo-in for me since I was reading about my childhood backyard. The novel is set in 1911 in Coney Island, Brooklyn NY. Back then, the amusement park truly earned its nickname of “America’s Playground.” For more than 100 years Coney Island has been synonymous with summer. I am a summer person. I couldn’t wait to dive into the story. The author does a good job of capturing the park’s energy and the feel of the times. There is also a decent murder mystery. My issue is with how the protagonistic—a 20-year-old who is from one of the wealthiest families in America—is not a believable character. She flip-flops from wanting to be a suffragette to acting like a prim and proper young woman from old money. Even though I was disappointed, overall I enjoyed the describitive writing in the tale

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“The Age of Exodus” by Gavin Scott

Genre:            Historical Murder Mystery Age of Exodus
Publisher:    Random House
Pub. Date:   Sept. 28, 2018

A murder-thriller nestled in historical fiction, The Age of Exodus reads like a blend of James Bond, Mickey Spillane, and Indiana Jones. This reviewer is pleased to report that the result is an addictive reading experience. Exodus brims with compelling research without sacrificing the breakneck speed at which it unfolds. The author, Gavin Scott, juggles archaeological artifacts, demon gods of Mesopotamia, and British espionage. Scott rarely misses a beat.

The year is 1947. The story begins in England and then shifts to America via the legendary British luxury liner, the Queen Mary. A General Assembly Meeting of the United Nations is its destination.  Aboard is our protagonist, the charming archeologist and Oxford lecturer named Duncan Forrester. This is the third book in Scott’s Duncan Forrester Mystery Series, but one needn’t read the first two novels to follow along. The author smoothly informs us that Forrester was a trained British special operations agent in the war, just what the UN needs.

Scott builds tension skillfully. You will witness a trail of grisly murders that echo ancient rituals. You will meet the real-life Aleister Crowley, an English occultist, who founded his own religion in the dark arts.  Remember, the book and movie The Exorcist?  Yes, this novel has sections that can get that terrifying.   You will also meet other real-life persons that played a part in history, such as Ernest Bevin and Arthur Koestler.  Bevin was a British unionist and statesman whose help was instrumental in winning the war.  As Foreign Secretary in 1947, he announced that the “Palestinian problem” will no longer be a British issue because Britain was handing it over to the United Nations.  As in the tale, his announcement caused quite the uproar inside the UN.  Arthur Koestler was a Hungarian journalist who achieved fame during this time period as the author of the anti-Communist novel, Darkness at Noon.   Interestingly, his books had been burned by both the Nazis and the Communists.

There is not an excess of Forrester’s love life in the plot, but enough to please. After all, where would Indiana Jones be without a beautiful woman by his side?  The reader will discover that tough guy Forrester is not so tough at all.  The woman who has caught his eye and has romantic feelings towards him is the younger sister of his deceased girlfriend, making him shy around her. Unlike so many romantic subplots, Forrester’s plight endears him to the reader.

Be prepared to learn of the intricate history between the Jewish Zionists and Palestinian Arabs who fought over the creation of a Jewish nation for Holocaust survivors.  Our hero has a role on the non-fictional historical steamer, the SS President Warfield.   Once in French waters, the ship donned a banner renaming the vessel, Exodus 1947.  The fictional commander tries to kill our hero because he is unaware that the British man, Forrester, is actually trying to help him.  Sadly, in the story, as well as in the history books, the Exodus 1947 did not succeed.  On July 11, 1947, the ship was boarded by the British in international waters.  The Jews trying to immigrate to Israel were taken to Haifa where ships were waiting to return them to refugee camps in Europe. “But by this time the ship was big news around the world, and the pitiful sight of the frightened children and former concentration camp victims…undermined everything Ernest Bevin had been claiming about the justice of his policy on the Jewish Homeland.”  Ernest Bevin was a man Forrester had once greatly admired, but not after this tragedy. Such moments are effective at raising the emotional stakes.

After getting lost in such a gripping moment in history, the reader may feel a tad disappointed when the story returns to another demon murder.  However, later events will reignite the story’s historical charge. The ending makes one hopeful that there will be a number four in the series to pick up where number three left off.  There is such creative finesse in Scott’s presentation of history that you can easily forget you’ve returned to the classroom. But a word of caution to the reader: although this book is a murder-mystery page-turner, read slowly. With so many real and fictional characters, it can get confusing if you are tempted to fly right through the novel in one sitting.  Still, if you do, the story is so enjoyable you will probably just reread it again for any clarifications that you might have missed, and you’re likely to take delight in it, even more, the second time around.

Open the link https://amzn.to/2qfPY1m to purchase “The Age of Exodus.”

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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