Speakeasy

Alisa Smith. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-07955-8
Intriguing characters and an unusual setting lift this appealing debut novel from Canadian author Smith (Plenty: A Year of Eating on the 100-Mile Diet). During WWII, 30-year-old Lena Stillman, a Canadian government code breaker, deciphers Japanese military communications; a few years earlier, she was part of a gang of bank robbers led by charismatic psychopath Bill Bagley, her former lover. She fears that her past is catching up with her as Bill starts sending messages to her from his cell on death row. Alternating with Lena’s story are chapters set during the early 1930s narrated by Byron Godfrey, another former gang member who was shaken out of a dull, law-abiding life by Bill. Their adventures, especially in the Canadian backwoods, are both upsetting and exhilarating, just as Lena and Byron show themselves to be simultaneously guilty and innocent. If things don’t work out for them quite as expected, that’s part of the book’s naïve charm. Agent: John Pearce, Westwood Creative Arts (Canada). (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 04/10/2018
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