Three and a half stars (of five)
Martin introduces the reader to the Pratts; a family steeped in history who hold a deep secret that traces back to the time of George Washington. After being given aa Paul Revere silver tea set, Washington promises to keep it on display in the White House, much to the chagrin of one Horace Taylor Pratt, Massachusetts Founding Father. After the tea set is stolen from the Madison White House during the War of 1812, Pratt seeks to secure its ownership through a number of negotiations and keep the profits inside his family circle. However, an accident leaves the tea set hidden somewhere in the Back Bay part of Boston, and the mystery flows down for six Pratt generations. Modern historian Peter Fallon stumbles upon the Pratt secret when perusing some old family papers and begins to ask questions not only about the tea set, but the Pratts in general. Juxtaposing the historical development of the Pratts and their secret with Fallon’s modern search for answers blends the two stories into a single plot line that could mean the end of Fallon. The tea set appears to be the thread that keeps the story moving, though Martin recounts many sub-plots in the Pratt family history that create a rich and captivating tale for the reader. Less a mystery or historical document chase than a snapshot of a family riddled with secrets of their own, Martin captivates and educates the reader continually. Well worth the time invested and sure to whet the reader’s appetite for the rest of the Fallon series.
I was not sure what to expect when I started the book, as it appeared to play out like a modern historian uncovering a secret item, lost in history, whose reappearance could answer many questions. Layer that with a family trying to preserve their own secrets and a few sinister villains, creating an all-around decent novel. However, Martin takes the reader through history to build on the mystery while addressing issues of the day and weaving threads between six generations, all culminating in the modern discovery of the secret. Martin uses the alternating chapters to keep the reader shifting their mind in order to better understand al the characters who appear throughout. Threads woven throughout the story come together nicely in the end and the reader will surely have at least a few forehead-slapping moments. I am eager to see what else Martin has in store in the series, set in and around Boston, an area that has always intrigued me.
Kudos, Mr. Martin for such an interesting opening novel. I can see this is only the beginning of what could be a highly captivating set of novels.