The most positive thing that can be said about Keith Blanchard's
debut novel THE DEED is the fact that he hits one out of the park
when it comes to writing about New York City. Although the novel
seems a bit sophomoric at times, Blanchard, editor-in-chief of
Maxim magazine, also does a solid job in bringing to life
his story's protagonist, Jason Hansvort.
Set in 1999 in Manhattan, before the horrific terrorist attacks of
September 11th, Jason is struggling with his career in a top ad
agency. He doubts himself, he doubts his career choice and he
especially doubts the current product he's supposed to be peddling.
But Jason, fortunately, is a direct descendent of Pieter Hansvoort.
And so Blanchard's novel tries to convince the reader that
somewhere there is a deed that, after over 400 years since the
Manahatas sold the city that never sleeps to Dutch settlers, will
rightfully allow Jason to claim his long lost inheritance.
The deed becomes known to Jason after he receives a mysterious
phone call from Amanda, a gorgeous Native American lawyer who is
determined to find the Hansvoort descendent, even though his name
has been shortened throughout the centuries. Jason is skeptical at
first, but after his boss gets removed from the ad agency, Jason
walks after a hilarious spat with his autocratic supervisor Diana
and the cat-and-mouse chase for the deed really heats up.
Blanchard not only possesses the fine ability to translate the
history behind the discovery of Manhattan, he also does yeoman's
work in describing the sale of the island and the effect it had
after the Manahata people sold it to the Dutch. The novel's
prologue begins in New Netherland (New York City) in 1643. While
the prologue is vital reading to understand the jest of the story,
the author wastes 16 pages before the first chapter and never, ever
returns the reader to that time period. He could have easily worked
the entire prologue into the story and made it much more
The author tragically does an injustice to Amanda's mother as well.
Mary is doing all she can to thwart her husband from allowing
organized crime to establish a casino on their Long Island
reservation. Blanchard crafts Mary perfectly but leaves her by the
wayside far too often.
THE DEED is definitely worth reading as Blanchard illustrates the
mystique of Gotham before the destruction of the World Trade Center
flawlessly. He writes in great detail about Wall Street --- and the
history behind it --- and the Statue of Liberty. In years to come,
people who will want to understand The Big Apple and all its
uniqueness should rent Ric Burns's splendid PBS documentary New
York and pick up a copy of THE DEED to accompany it.
Reviewed by David Exum on January 21, 2011