Book Reviews / Tour

The Widow’s Son: Enticing Premise and Solid Characters, Hard Sell {Review & Tour}

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Welcome to The Widow’s Son by Thomas Shawver Official Blog Tour. We’ve got our Review of this Mystery/Thriller for you along with all the juicy details on the book so cozy on up and read along.

About the Book

Title: The Widow’s Son
Author: Thomas Shawver
Series: Rare Book Mystery #3
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Format: eBook {courtesy of publisher}
Pages: 203 pgs
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Random House Alibi

Thomas Shawver, author of The Dirty Book Murder and Left Turn at Paradise, returns to the surprisingly lethal world of rare books with a third enthralling novel featuring a most unlikely hero–antiquarian bookseller Michael Bevan.

A furious man from nearby Independence, Kansas demands that Michael Bevan return a rare first edition of the Book of Mormon, claiming that it was mistakenly sold by a disgruntled descendant of A.J. Stout. Contained on the frontispiece are a list of Ford names dating from 1845 to the present. Beside each name, save the last two, is a check mark – but what could the checks signify?

With this discovery, Michael Bevan stumbles onto a trail of hatred and murder stretching back to 1844.

The Review

The Widow’s Son is the third book in a series of books about the rather adventurous antiquarian bookseller Michael Bevan, who seems to keep finding himself in all sorts of wonderful trouble. He’s a little like the Indiana Jones of the book world. Sounds like something I can get behind. And as far as the character of Michael goes, I absolutely can, he was certainly flawed, scarred from his previous escapades, and passionate about his work.

As the book opens, he is desperate to gain legitimacy in the trade by becoming a member of the rather exclusive ABBA, and the woman that holds his business fate in her hands, is not quite inclined to recommend someone with Michael’s checkered past.

But then he comes across something that may sway her, a first edition Book of Mormon, inscribed by an early leader of the LDS church. Unfortunately, what comes with it is a whole lot of trouble. Within hours of leaving the book in her possession, her home is burned down with his benefactor inside and the rare book is seemingly lost forever, but that’s just the beginning of the bizarre murderous plot centered around the book.

I have to give credit to Shawver for his character and plot development. His characters are all quite interesting and uniquely developed individuals with interesting quirks that made me want to read more about them, whether I was loving them or hating them.

And the plot unfolded very naturally, with Michael often creating problems for himself in the way he went about trying to reach his goals or solve the problems he had created in the first place.

I also really enjoyed the description in this book. It was just spot on and at times quite lovely. Not poetic, but it really painted the scene so that you felt like you were right there in the middle of what was happening.

As far as the story goes, I had some issues with this one. Yes, the idea of an offshoot group of vigilante Mormons that have been secretly enacting revenge killings for the death of their beloved prophet for 200 years makes for an interesting fictional tale, but not a very realistic one. I had a hard time swallowing some of it.

Even the characters that were supposed to be the ones doing the killings couldn’t seem to hold on to the idea as being a good one, so I’m not sure that it would have been passed down successfully through six generations.

Maybe an eye for an eye. But to kill all subsequent generations just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

To believe it, you have to put a large portion of the characters in the book into the bat-shit crazy category, and then what do we have? Bookseller vs gang of bat-shit crazy psycho murderers. I suppose it’s in the realm of possibility, and it’s kind of fun for a while, but it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief on this one.

The other problem I had with this story was that the author just didn’t quite get his research right into the LDS faith. I could tell he tried. And there’s a lot to keep straight, and a lot of conflicting sources out there, but simply having a beta reader who was LDS who could point out some of the glaring inaccuracies before it went to print would have been wise.

Anyone not familiar with the Mormon faith probably wouldn’t notice the errors, but that doesn’t change the fact that with intentionally or not, this book contributes to misinformation about an already misunderstood religion.  I appreciated that he did take great pains to point out that the psycho killers were not standard members of the church, but he implied that they operated within it, attending the same wards and temples… really I’m not going to get into it because I could give you a very long list of small errors which add up to big differences, but suffice it to say, when you are dealing with a religion that is not your own, bring in some experts that are currently active in that religion to help you in your research.

Even the title of the book. The Widow’s Son, is based on a very very tenuous at best, possible account of what might have been said by the prophet Joseph Smith just before his death, by a witness that didn’t come forth until 40 some years later, and contradicts all other accounts. Does it make a more interesting story? Sure. Maybe. Was it necessary for this story to go with the least likely historical account? I don’t really see what it added.  And later scenes in the prologue are based on accounts that have been proven complete fabrications.  Yes, they make this story work, but they also do real world damage because there are those out there who will take the stories and run with them in a genre that presents as closely as possible to historical facts, very fantastical fiction.

There was another fantastical element of this book that I found at times endearing, and at times perplexing.  The young girl Claire, who seems to have almost a mystical connection with nature and death that is never quite explained. She think she is a Banshee, we are told at one point of her odd behavior which includes breaking out into ethereal song  in the moments just before a person’s death.

Later, at the book’s climax a spirit appears which spooks the assailants, and we don’t ever quite understand if this is some conjuring of her doing or not. The same can be said of the mysterious lone female missionary our heroes meet on the road. Is this Claire reaching out again? And what does all this spirit and magic have to do with our story or plot, other than its used as a convenient distraction when all hope seems lost at the climactic showdown, but that almost feels like a magical cheat.

I’d certainly like to pick the author’s brain on that one.

Overall, I guess I’m still grasping at straws to understand this book. On the most basic of levels, it is an entertaining read about a priceless book and a murderous plot. On that level, the plot, the characters, and the writing are solid and though the pacing sometimes slows, and there is a bit too much backstory telling for my tastes, it will keep you engaged enough to read through to the end.

For myself, I just wanted this book to do better than it did. I wanted to love it more often than I was annoyed by it, and sadly for me that was not the case. Granted some of that comes down to my LDS upbringing and knowing what errors the author was making. But much of it was just a little much for me to swallow, especially when it came to choices made by the characters, the antagonists in particular.

I liked the lead character quite a lot and I’d like to read some of the other books in the series to see if different Michael Bevan subject matter would be more up my alley, and I’d still recommend it for mystery/thriller fans and possibly fans of Dan Brown type books, just know you are getting into a bit more conjecture.

Three Star Review

The Widow's Son Tomas Shawvr

Cover Story: B-

I like the colorful murder mystery feel of the book and the flames definitely play into the story line, the gun in the flames is a nice touch too, overall it’s a solid cover, but it doesn’t reallly say anything about antiquariean books to me and nothing about it makes me feel like I need to have this in my collection, which is fine since its only planned as an eBook release for now.

About the Author

Thomas Shawver is a former marine officer, lawyer, and journalist with American City Business Journals. An avid rugby player and international traveler, Shawver owned Bloomsday Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Kansas City.

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Thanks for stopping by!

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