Thursday, November 12, 2015



Murder Plots, Black Panther Betrayal, Kidnapping and Rock n' Roll 




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What is the book about? See review below from online book club site.



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Official Review: City of Redemption by June Ahern

 31 Oct 2015
[Following is the official review of "City of Redemption" by June Ahern.]

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4 out of 4 stars

Review by H0LD0Nthere

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It’s every mother’s worst nightmare. Liz’s beautiful eight-year-old son is dead … and it’s her fault for delaying the investigation when he first went missing. The tragedy will destroy her already fragile marriage. She will be ostracized by her friends, pilloried in the newspapers, and rejected by her own mother. Eventually, she will leave her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, and seek a new life in San Francisco, California. She will arrive during the Summer of Love.

Welcome to the opening chapters of City of Redemption. If you are a parent, I dare you to read without crying the chapter in which Patrick goes missing. Parent or not, come along for the ride if you want a story of grief, intrigue and friendship surrounded by sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

City of Redemption is primarily about Liz settling in to San Francisco, the new friends she finds, and how she ends up helping the Black Panthers with some of their more clandestine activities. But the tragedy with her son is never far from her mind. Liz’s grief is a presence with her throughout the novel. It makes her reserved with the people in her San Francisco commune, but this reserve also protects her in some ways from the more dangerous aspects of the scene.

Liz, by the way, is a relatable character. The author shows us her faults as a young mom … she is young, selfish, and a bit irresponsible, but also dedicated to her son and certainly not a monster. Later, we see her broken, then matured by the tragedy.

Her grief is handled realistically. It comes up at natural moments, such as during conversations, drug trips, and other moments of vulnerability. Liz is sometimes seen having a private cry, even as she remains a strong character, functional though fragile. Masterfully, the author does not reveal all at once the whole story about what actually happened to Liz’s son Patrick. The reader will have to wait until nearly the end of the story to find out all the details, filled in progressively through flashbacks, memories, and conversations with Liz’s friends. As in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, the worst of the horror always happens “off screen” – that is, shown indirectly by being related by a third person or being revealed after it is already over. This extremely raw subject of a kidnapped child is very tastefully handled.

Like the tragedy with Patrick, the events in San Francisco are tastefully handled. Violence usually (not always) takes place off-screen, and is described matter-of-factly, not luridly. There are several very sexy scenes, but with one exception, nothing graphic. The characters’ dangerous lifestyle choices are not glamorized. Period details are spot-on, from the clothes to the cars to the music.

Music plays a major role in City of Redemption. We hear it on the radio, in the car, and live at concerts. Anyone who loves the music of the 50s and 60s will enjoy this aspect of it. Often a line or two is printed in italics, so that readers can hear the song in their heads. Fittingly, the songs often strike Liz as speaking directly to her situation at that moment. At the end of the book is a list of all the songs used, with the group who recorded them and the year they came out. Among others, there are “Stand By Me,” “Paint It Black,” “Don’t You Want Somebody To Love?,” “Love Me Do,” “Soul Man,” “Eve of Destruction.”

I do have a few, very minor quibbles with the book. First of all, the style is rather spare for the genre of book. Even drug trips are described in a very matter-of-fact way. This is good in some ways … the reader never gets confused, even when Liz is. The plain style moves the action forward quickly, making the book a page-turner. However, in scenes where not a lot of action is happening, and in descriptions of Liz’s thoughts, the plain style can get a little monotonous. I felt that a richer style of writing could have brought out more the latent tense or poignant emotions in the book.

Nor does the style do justice to the beauty of San Francisco. There are a few scenes that take place on the beach, and often we see the characters traveling through the picturesque, high hills of San Francisco, but mostly we have to imagine this stuff, because it is not evocatively described for us. The focus is always on the action and the dialogue, somewhat to the detriment of the scene.

This very plain style of writing extends to the transitions into flashbacks. Usually it is pretty clear when a flashback is happening, but in one critical scene near the end, the transitions were inadequate and I, at least, was confused for a few minutes until I realized the narrative was giving a glimpse of the day before.

Despite these minor flaws, the book is poignant, tense, well-researched and well-plotted. I give City of Redemption four out of four stars.

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