2012 saw the release of Canadian author Carsten Stroud’s NICEVILLE, the start of a trilogy set in an enigmatic community that is anything but nice. In my review last year, I commented that “[w]andering through the pages of NICEVILLE is like walking the streets of a small European town where they curve and intersect, and you may find yourself lost if you fail to pay rapt attention.” It was nonetheless a quirky yet enjoyable mystery. Now Stroud has given readers an equally enjoyable follow-up. THE HOMECOMING features many of the characters we met in the first installment, adds in a number of new ones, and maintains the frenetic pacing and plot twists that were present when we were introduced to this mysterious community.
Two plane crashes get the plot started. A Cessna with a well-known member of the community flies into a mountain, while a Learjet with Chinese nationals, who may have been visiting Niceville for commercial espionage, hits a flock of birds and crashes on the 14th green of the local country club. At the same time, a former FBI agent is arrested for committing a recent bank robbery where the $2 million haul is still missing. The agent is arrested, but the vehicle transporting him to court collides with a deer and crashes, allowing him to escape from custody. The picture may sound somewhat confusing, but readers of NICEVILLE will appreciate that juggling several plots in the air from chapter to chapter is the method of Stroud’s entertaining writing.
"THE HOMECOMING features many of the characters we met in the first installment, adds in a number of new ones, and maintains the frenetic pacing and plot twists that were present when we were introduced to this mysterious community."
Many of the characters introduced in NICEVILLE return to the pages of THE HOMECOMING. Rainey Teague, the 10-year-old boy who disappeared while in plain view of a security camera, is now in the care of foster parents Nick and Kate Kavanaugh, a police officer and an attorney, respectively. The Kavanaughs are foundational characters for Stroud, a former police officer whose authentic descriptions of police work are among the best parts of the book.
As in the first installment, the pages and chapters of the second are a frenzy of activity. In addition to the plane crashes and deer collision with the prisoner transport, readers will experience a bank robbery where robbers and police engage in a massive shootout, a harrowing car chase, and a hostage hunt in an indoor shopping mall. These events are portrayed in thrilling language. Evil characters, including Nick’s brother-in-law, Byron Deitz, and several murderous rogue police officers, move the constant struggle between good and evil along. Readers need to pay attention, but everything seems to come together in the end.
In reading multi-volume works, one always needs to consider where to begin. Can you read THE HOMECOMING without having picked up NICEVILLE? You could, but it certainly would help your understanding of the mysteries and unique traditions of this community that has quite a history for a small southern town. You may as well start from the beginning, because when THE RECKONING, the conclusion to the trilogy, is published in 2014, you will want to know the entire saga of Niceville, a town that is anything but nice.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on July 26, 2013