23 August 2010

Review: In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck

Just after the turn of the twentieth century, not long after the San Francisco earthquake, the Chinese community near Monterey Bay burned to the ground. Miraculously no one was killed in the fire, which was rumored to have been set by an arson. These facts form the basis for In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck (yes, one of those Steinbecks).

The novel begins with the 1906 journals of Charles Gilbert, a research biologist at Hopkins Marine Station not far from Monterey. Gilbert records meeting and hiring Red Billy O'Flynn, an Irishman of uncertain background and reputation and how the two became involved in a discovery that could change the way we understand history. When the major Chinese Tong families take an interest in the artifacts, O'Flynn disappears and Gilbert is shut out of the circle of information.

About a hundred years later, Charles Lucas, a graduate student, comes across some of Gilbert's papers at the marine institute. And it is only through his research and contacts that we finally learn the truth behind O'Flynn's discoveries and the inner workings of the old Tong network.

In the Shadow of the Cypress is told in three parts, each in a different style and from a different perspective. The story is intriguing enough to carry you through these changes and is so nicely based in fact that you sometimes forget you're reading a novel. The characters and descriptive scenes will stick with you and the mystery surrounding the artifacts holds your attention, but the ending of the novel could have been a bit stronger.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Brilliance Audio) read by Jeff Harding. Harding did a great job switching between view points, accents, and time periods, and his reading added greatly to my enjoyment of the novel. Look for the full audio review on AudioFile magazine's website.

In the Shadow of the Cypress at Powell's
In the Shadow of the Cypress at Book Depository
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Published by Simon & Schuster / Gallery Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 9781439168257

Challenges: Historical Fiction, 100+
YTD: 75
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Sandy Nawrot 8/23/10, 9:31 AM  

First of all, LOVE that cover and the book sounds fabulous. And you are writing audiobook reviews online? How cool is that! I couldn't find the review on there though. I looked and looked.

Beth F 8/23/10, 9:38 AM  

Sandy: I don't think they posted it yet. When they do, I'll change the link so it goes directly to the review.

bermudaonion 8/23/10, 12:09 PM  

When I read your title, I thought it said John Steinbeck and I wondered why I'd never heard of the book. It's nice to see talent runs in the family.

Heather 8/23/10, 1:31 PM  

This sounds really good! I love a good reader and it sounds like Jeff Harding did an excellent job. I can't wait to read your full review. :)

Julie P. 8/23/10, 2:29 PM  

This sounds so interesting. I just might be getting into audio. Ran 3 miles this morning while listening to an audio book!

Veens 8/23/10, 8:48 PM  

God! the Author's name is surely going to be confused with John Steinbeck. :)
Lovely cover too! And I think I will give this one a try too :)

caite 8/24/10, 7:39 AM  

I think he really needs to change his first name..Johnny or something.
Because see, here we all are, talking about his name.

But the book sounds interesting too. Can't do it in audio though.

Ana S. 8/25/10, 4:58 PM  

I absolutely LOVE the premise of this. *adds to wishlist*

S. Krishna 8/30/10, 8:45 AM  

I've had a review copy of this one in print for a long time, but haven't gotten around to it. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, I'll move it up on the list!

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