This review may contain some spoilers.
A captivating historical fiction set in 1941, before America’s involvement in World War II. Ricky Parker, thirteen-years-old, travels with his parents to Venezuela; his father has been sent to help in the search for precious oil to fuel the war in Europe.
But in the South American heat, just north of the equator, Ricky and his family are thrown into a melting pot of cultures, with the threat of disgruntled natives on one side, and, perhaps more unnerving for some of the Americans, German workers and families living in close proximity on the other side of the camp. This serves to create a tentative feeling around the site and a sense of foreboding that keeps the drama ticking along.
But Ricky wants for nothing more than to sink into his comic books, or to swing his bat on the baseball field. The war, oil, his father’s engineering brain – none of these things concern him. To complicate matters, he falls for a young German girl, Hannah, and begins to understand a broader picture, of both love and life. They grow closer, knowing that one day, due to the growing animosity between their two governments, they will be forced to part.
But when someone turns up dead in the camp, fingers start pointing, people become anxious and things begin to escalate. With time ticking down until America will be hurtled into the war, it’s only a matter of time until matters implode inside the camp.
This is a well-written work that bottles the fear and tension of that era while serving up a unique backdrop to play it against. On occasion, the author falters in the battle of handling exposition, and this reader felt that there was room to delve deeper into the relationship between father and son. But, perhaps that is a symptom of the times – that sort of stand-offish father/son relationship where it’s more what was left unsaid that rang most true.
Towards the book’s culmination, Ricky puts on his master detective hat. I found it curious that this comic book lover didn’t indulge in reading the ‘world’s greatest detective’, Batman, launched in 1940. Like his full color illustrated idols, he has a knack for escaping from sticky situations. But while he often punches and lands above his weight, his victories never felt hollow.
A poignant and thoughtful drama that will stay with you.
This is just one opinion. If you’ve read the book, why not add your own rating below?
* Unique location
* Plenty of conflict