Thursday, September 6, 2018

Wishing Caswell Dead by Pat Stoltey – A Review

"You sure he's dead?" asked Jeremiah Frost, owner of the general store.

"Ah, oui," Henri de Montagne answered, his accent even more pronounced than usual. "Sans doubt. His t'roat is…"


So begins the prologue in this fascinating story that begins in 1834. Then we take a short trip backward to July 1833 to meet its young protagonist, Jo Mae Proud.

As a writer and editor, I noted the story is told both in first person and in third person. Initially, that seemed a brave undertaking for author Pat Stoltey, one I would never have considered employing. Yet, she has executed it smoothly and without a glitch. By using both persons effectively, she allows readers greater insight and a more complete overview of the important characters. She also offers an intimate closeup of Jo Mae, a fly-on-the-wall view we grow to appreciate more and more as we cheer on this plucky girl who grows up hard but faces the world on her own terms.

Although bouncing back and forth between the protagonist and other characters, the flawless flow creates a natural transition that is never distracting. Distinctly drawn characters step off the page to invite the reader in, and 13-year-old Jo Mae is particularly poignant in her personal invitation. Having years before left behind the trappings of childhood, she exhibits a maturity far beyond her chronological age. The reader smiles with her, cries with her, and marvels at her ability to endure conditions most of us would find beyond repugnant.

While Caswell certainly qualifies as historical fiction, its application seems in some striking ways almost modern. Update the background, and with some minor changes it could be today. Yet, it clearly reflects life in the era in which it is set.

The conclusion is the so-called icing on the cake. While it may surprise some, it is a natural outgrowth of all that has come before and perfectly fits the character Jo Mae. In fact, it is my favorite part of this occasionally harsh but very engaging story.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and romance. You can contact her at websites: LSLaneBooks.com and DenverEditor.com.

10 comments :

  1. Thank you so much for this perceptive review, Linda.

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  2. Wishing Caswell Dead is a fabulous story——very well written and a powerful page turner. Now I'm going to have to read some of your other books. :-)

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    1. It's well worth reading, Liz. I read it in one sitting.

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  4. Sounds like proof that, in the right hands, any POV can work. Having a thirteen-year-old protagonist is also an interesting choice for historical mystery.

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    1. Not only is it an interesting choice, Diana, but it's a great choice for this book aimed at an older audience. Jo Mae Proud is thrust into the adult world when her diabolical older brother forces her into a life of prostitution. The young girl fights him every step of the way until she is subdued by his threats. Then she makes some very "adult" decisions that shape her future in unexpected and mature ways. It's a powerful read, one that kept me glued to its pages from beginning to end——a rare occurrence when I'm reading a book.

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  5. Great review and good reminder that I really want to get this book. Thanks, Linda.

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  6. Nice review, Linda. Switching from first to third person works if it's done right. Sounds like Pat did it perfectly, and kudos for it.

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  7. She did, indeed, Polly. It's a compelling story. One thing that really struck me was how relevant it is to our time.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.