Monday, November 29, 2010

Security Agent in Danger: HERON ISLAND by R. A. Harold

It's time to double-check the holiday lists, including those of gifts, and insert some fresh names and ideas. And the new mystery from Vermonter and Brooklynite R. A. (Roberta, or Robbie) Harold belongs on lots of those lists. A well-plotted and delicious surprise out of the "historicals," HERON ISLAND draws on the labor unrest of President Roosevelt's time, complete with European anarchists, hidden Jews, and merchant princes of the rich American landscape -- economic and political leaders who summered in special locations, including Vermont's Lake Champlain.

Meet Dade Wyatt, who left behind a stage career and rode as a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill. In service -- with full loyalty demanded -- to paper tycoon Warren Dodge, Wyatt's job as of 1903 is to protect the Dodge family and its prestigious guests. And with the President himself booked into the Dodges' summer quarters on a large island on the lake, Wyatt needs to make sure no unexpected threats are likely to materialize. Could there be violent anarchists in the state, like the one who murdered President McKinley (a death that Wyatt failed to prevent)?

When the husband of lovely and flirtatious Milly Van Dorn turns up dead on the island, there's every reason to hope the death is due to accident. But Wyatt already knows too much to accept that verdict. And the mysterious sorrow of his own past is alerting him to emotional complexities around him.

Harold's hefty narrative -- more than 400 pages -- never grows dull. Details of crime, poverty, and policing are deftly woven into Wyatt's investigations. And although he finds threats to himself as well as to the elegant people he shepherds, he methodically clears away any motives from two trustworthy men -- his boss, and the Louisiana-born cook to the household -- and draws on a new friendship with a Scottish police detective from New York, and soon he has a team able to cope with the complications and criminals on the scene. Whether the President's visit can be allowed, though, that's still a question -- Dodge needs the President to come, but not if there's going to be danger beyond the Rough Rider's reasonable adventure!

Read the first chapter of HERON ISLAND on Harold's website,, where you can also enjoy Robbie Harold's conversational style and get some details of her own variegated background. I'm glad to say there's already a second Dade Wyatt mystery, done and awaiting publication. And we have a few signed copies of this first one, on the shelves at Kingdom Books.

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