Four stars (of five)
“A man will be known by his books.”
– John Harvard
Martin introduces the reader to the Wedges; a family steeped in history who hold a deep secret that traces back to the time of William Shakespeare. A play the Bard penned specifically for John Harvard makes its way across the Atlantic with a boatload of Puritans and is protected from their fiery rhetoric. Hidden within the college at Cambridge, soon to bear Harvard’s name, the play’s existence is kept secret by the Wedges for generations, leaving rare book fanatics to wonder if it was all a fallacy. Enter Peter Fallon and the modern-day treasure hunt. He’s discovered evidence that Shakespeare’s play may be hidden on campus and is determined to discover it before his rivals can get their hands on this priceless publication. Fallon’s research brings him back in touch with an old flame as well as generations of Wedges, some of whom were as brutish as they came and many witnessed Harvard’s evolution as a premiere educational facility. Slowly peeling back the mysteries, Fallon must not only discover the play’s location, but keep himself from dying at the hands of the seedy underbelly that New England has on offer. How can one play sit at the foundation of Harvard’s preeminence and what will Fallon discover as he sifts through over three and a half centuries of skeletons? Masterfully told with wonderful juxtaposition, it is only a pity that Martin waited so long to bring back this entertaining series.
As he continues to make a name for himself, Martin captivates the reader with his multi-generational stories that pull history from out of books and presents it as an ever-evolving beast. At the centre of the entire novel lies the development of Harvard and its history against the backdrop of America’s creation and evolution. The reader learns no only about the hallowed halls, but its politics, and the evolution of its philosophy. While Crimson has always seen itself as above the fray, Martin exemplifies that Harvard, too, fought the tides of change while remaining true to itself. Martin also interweaves storylines and characters from the debut Fallon novel, Back Bay, which will amuse attentive readers while also keeping the story propelling forward. A wonderfully educational piece of work, as well as highly entertaining and filled with enough mystery to keep the reader wondering.
I cannot neglect the quote I present to begin this review. Teased from the early chapters, it speaks volumes to my character and could be adapted to any curious reader. While book reviews serve as a window into the mind and soul of a reader, what one chooses to mentally digest surely exemplifies one’s character. Looking at my stacks and those books that I have read and/or reviewed over the years, I feel I am in good hands, even if I will be known for having a vast array of interests.
Kudos, Mr. Martin for such an interesting novel that brings Peter Fallon back. While the hiatus was a little troublesome, you have picked up and forged ahead, offering readers a fast-paced novel and a history lesson along the way.