Friday, December 19, 2008

What Time Devours-A.J. Hartley

What Time Devours
A.J. Hartley
Berkley, Jan 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425226230

In Illinois, Evanston Township High School English teacher Thomas Knight looks out his window to see the woman’s face plastered against the pane; her eyes look vacant. He goes outside and checks on her to find her dead. Police Detective Lieutenant Polinksi leads the investigation into a victim with no ID except a stick-it note with Thomas’ name and address on it. He insists he never met her, but obviously the cop say she came to see him.

Not long after that former student David Escolme calls Thomas. He explains he works at the prestigious Vernon Fredericks Literary Agency and needs to meet Thomas to show him something Thomas agrees to meet him at the prestigious Drake Hotel where David is staying while attending a Shakespeare scholarly conference. At the Drake, a distraught David insists he had and lost a handwritten copy of Love’s Labor Won, an alleged play by the great Bard that has never been proven to exist though there is a footnoted historical reference that it did. He further explains that his client is renowned author Daniella Blackstone who he explains cannot write a sentence; her former partner Church is the obvious author of their collaborations. Thomas believes that the dead Jane Doe is Blackstone. Soon afterward, David vanishes, a web sight that listed him as an agent at Fredericks no longer exists, and he is not on the register of guests at the Drake; soon afterward someone tries to kill Thomas; hospitalizing him with a bullet wound. Although his shoulder hurts, David re-enters the scholarly world of Shakespeare; a place he fled from a decade ago to teach school.

Fans will enjoy the return of Thomas who is estranged from his wife Kumi, but hopes for a reconciliation. This time the conspiracy of sorts changes from the Church and his brother’s death (see ON THE FIFTH DAY) to Shakespeare and his student’s death. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Thomas minding his business ends up in a modern day tragedy. Fans of A.J. Hartley will apprecioare a brief visit from Atlanta museum curator Deborah Miller of MASK OF ATREUS who stops by at the hospital to say hello on her way to field work (sequel for her, perhaps). WHAT TIME DEVOURS is an entertaining thriller as the Shakespearean scholars are as cutthroat as Richard III.

Harriet Klausner

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