The Bostoner

Andrew Buckley, Author Stage Harbor Press $25 (441p) ISBN 978-0-9676082-0-4
Inspired by the maritime adventures of 18th-century American privateer Capt. John Kendrick, 11th-generation Cape Codder Buckley's wide-ranging debut, part one of a trilogy, strives for historical resonance, but is burdened by its complicated plot. The 20th-century protagonist, John Miles Kendrick, known as Miles, is stiffly presented as a textbook schizophrenic who hears voices despite a voluntary stint in a mental hospital. A paralegal struggling to make ends meet, Miles nearly dies in a Boston courthouse explosion that kills his boss and the opposing counsel's client. He then becomes a suspect in the ensuing investigation. But Buckley derails the drama by panning back to reveal that the players in the modern-day disaster are descendants of the enemies of the maligned 18th-century Kendrick, the ""Bostoner."" The historical Kendrick was a rogue adventurer who developed trade with U.S. Northwest Native Americans and then, in turn, with China and, according to Buckley, laid personal claim to thousands of acres in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. He was killed by a ceremonial cannon blast intended to honor him. Buckley's conceit--he proposes to make parallel universes of Kendrick's past struggles and Miles's travails--is promising, and Miles sets out on a compelling journey across the continent in search of the true story of his ancestor's ""accidental"" demise as well as the motivation behind the courthouse explosion and related murders he uncovers. But unlikely sexual liaisons, out-of-the-blue FBI connections and a 200-year-old grudge are hard plot points to swallow, and the grisly denouement comes off as melodramatic and slap-dash. Written in a prose that depends heavily on capitalized words and italics, Buckley's ambitious novel strains too hard. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/1999
Release date: 12/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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