A Trial in Summer

Ann L. McLaughlin, Author
Ann L. McLaughlin, John Daniel (SCB, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (236p) ISBN 978-1-56474-506-4
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Pre-WWII San Francisco is brought to life in McLaughlin's aesthetically pleasing if sharply underplotted latest (after Leaving Bayberry House). When Lorie Bronson, a progressively minded college freshman, moves with her father, stepmother, and stepbrother to San Francisco in 1939, and they settle in tony Nob Hill, Lorie is drawn to the Embarcadero, a hotbed of labor strife. Her father, a judge presiding over the case of a labor leader, warns her to stay away, but Lorie goes there to take photographs and understand the labor struggles, only to discover that there are more than two sides to the issue and that not everyone can be trusted. Then there's the problem of her involvement perhaps infringing on her father's ability to do his job. McLaughlin's primary concern, it appears, is the setting, and she does a great job with it, but the slack narrative does little to help out a bland heroine too meek to lead a novel that forgoes plot in favor of atmosphere. (Apr.)
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