cover image Mad Boy

Mad Boy

Nick Arvin. Europa (PGW, dist.), $17 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-60945-458-6

Arvin (Articles of War) uses one family’s bad luck as the linchpin of this irreverent journey around Maryland during the War of 1812. Ten-year-old Henry Phipps can still hear his very recently dead mother talking to him, urging him to bury her at sea with family around. Her dissolute, feckless husband, however, is in debtor’s prison, and her older son Franklin is to face a firing squad for deserting. Henry crams his mother’s corpse into a pickling barrel and sets out to make enough money looting battlefields to free his father, connecting with a varied crew of dislocated people as his scheme rapidly crumbles. Franklin, meanwhile, is alive and soon to be a father, having escaped the firing squad and a plot by the local magnate Suthers to get him killed for impregnating Suthers’s daughter, Mary. Though convinced he still needs to free his father, Henry agrees to help Mary and her newborn son escape her forced seclusion. Henry rushes toward a final ill-conceived plan involving duping Suthers, a kidnapping, and a buried treasure. The colorful characters make this account of the War of 1812 a rollicking page-turner. (June)