Books

Amnesiacs and a period poser

The Searcher, by Simon Toyne. William Morrow. 480 pages.

If you don’t mind a touch of the supernatural, pick up this story of an amnesiac albino who walks out of a plane crash into a small desert town, knowing nothing about himself except that his mission is to save a man whose funeral he just missed.

“Solomon Creed” is written on his clothing, and he has no idea why he can smell fruit and instantly know its Latin name and medicinal properties, instinctively know how to efficiently disable or kill attackers, or glimpse machinery or weaponry and have all the specs jump out of his memory.

All these talents come in handy as he takes on corrupt town officials and drug runners. Toyne also gives us some self-sufficient female characters, which is refreshing amid all the machismo.

The Silent Boy, by Andrew Taylor. HarperCollins. 448 pages.

Andrew Taylor is a historical novelist first, so expect a level of period authenticity above what we sometimes see from mystery writers who take their 21st-century mindset along when they time travel.

At the height of the French Revolution, a traumatized boy escapes to his former nurse’s home and is taken to England. No one knows what he witnessed in his mother’s home because he has taken the warning “say nothing” so literally that he will not speak, write or even nod in answer to questions.

A tug of war over his future escalates to include multiple abductions and attacks, all in the slow-motion idiom of the day. When a tooth extraction means a week in bed and a kidnapper has to stop at inns to change horses, adventure has a different pace.

Scenes from the point of view of the boy who won’t speak add interest, as he “befriends” a macabre medical exhibit – a plaster mold of a boy his age, sans skin – and eavesdrops on adult conversations, his silence becoming a form of invisibility.

Everything She Forgot, by Lisa Ballantyne. William Morrow. Paperback, 432 pages.

After being rescued from a multicar pileup by a stranger covered in burn scars, a woman has what she thinks is PTSD, but she begins to realize there’s more to it as she starts reliving suppressed memories from her childhood. In alternating chapters set in 1985 and the present day, Lisa Ballantyne tells a different story than the one we’re expecting.

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