When the total solar eclipse begins around 10 a.m. on August 21, its path will start in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. Along the way, certain areas and towns have been designated by scientists as the best place to view this feat of nature.
In all, 12 states are in the totality path to this point. And places in the totality path are expected to attract up to tens of thousands of people who come to view the eclipse as well as enjoy the many festivals that will be held during the solar event.
Small towns of less than 10,000 may be overrun with more than 50,000 visitors, some of whom may have to stay in hotels two hours away to see this phenomenon. Rural areas with wide-open spaces are the best, such as Marshall, Missouri.
These eclipse chasers plan for years to attend the best viewing spots, spending time charting the eclipse with maps, and visiting forums and social media.
OK, so all this is very interesting, but what does it have to do with mysteries?
A month or so ago, I would have wondered the same thing until I read the brilliant thriller He Said/She Said (Minotar) by Erin Kelly.
These eclipse chasers, who relish “celestial mechanics,” provide the background for this innovative mystery. While Kelly includes plenty of lore about seeing an eclipse, the author also delivers an unusual psychological thriller about a marriage, as well as obsessions, secrets, and how rape is viewed.
At first glance, it would seem that eclipses are about an insular community of people who travel great distances to watch. But He Said/She Said shows that it’s not just a small group but a wide swath of people, some of whom have never seen an eclipse and others who have no interest in the science behind it.
Christopher “Kit” McCall has chased solar eclipses his entire life, and considers “real life as the boring bit between eclipses.” Kit and his girlfriend, Laura Langrishe, are celebrating the 1999 solar eclipse at a festival in Cornwall when they stop the apparent rape of a stranger. The lives of Kit and Laura are entwined for years in the lives of the victim and her abuser.
He Said/She Said alternates between 1999 and 16 years later when Kit and Laura are married and expecting twins. Now another eclipse looms, and the best place to view is the Faroe Islands. Kit will go while Laura stays home because of her advanced pregnancy.
The eclipse is an exciting background to He Said/She Said as Kelly adds enough science and sky lore to make readers want to rush out to get those glasses one is supposed to wear during a viewing. But Kelly never allows the science to overwhelm her unusual thriller.
He Said/She Said is the perfect companion to the 2017 solar eclipse.
James Grippando’s skill with suspenseful plots reached another level in his gripping Gone Again, published in 2016.
In this 13th novel about Miami attorney Jack Swyteck, Grippando led the reader on a twisting tale of grief, obsession, and the disintegration of a family—as I wrote in my review of Gone Again.
“In a career highlighted by a number of superb novels, Gone Again ranks at the top of Grippando’s work,” I wrote.
I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Gone Again.
Gone Again has been awarded the 2017 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.
The award was selected by a panel including Deborah Johnson, winner of the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and author of The Secret of Magic; Cassandra King, author of The Same Sweet Girls Guide to Life; Don Noble, host of Alabama Public Radio's book review series as well as host of Bookmark, which airs on Alabama Public Television; and Han Nolan, author of Dancing on the Edge.
In the press release announcing the award, Han Nolan remarked, “It best exemplifies Harper Lee's desire for a work of fiction that illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. Jack Swyteck is a lawyer's lawyer. He works within the system, relentlessly searching for the truth as he races against time to defend a death row inmate.”
Don Noble added, “If I am ever in legal trouble, there is no lawyer I would rather have than Grippando's Jack Swyteck,” he said. "The man is dedicated to social justice, resourceful and tireless."
Needless to say, Grippando is thrilled. “This is pretty amazing ... and the autographed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird has me over the moon.”
The 2017 prize will be awarded at The University of Alabama School of Law on September 14.
Meanwhile, the best congratulations for Grippando would be to pick up a copy of Gone Again.
In Gone Again, Jack takes on Debra Burgette as a client for Miami’s Freedom Institute. Deborah’s daughter teenage daughter Sashi was murdered about five years before. Ex-con Dylan Reeves is on death row, awaiting execution.
But Debra’s tale isn’t what Jack expects. She wants to stop the execution because Debra maintains that Sashi is still alive.
In my review, I wrote, “Debra’s fanaticism is realistically portrayed and while it is easy to understand her motives Grippando also shows the destructive nature of her fixation. Grippando also gracefully weaves in Jack’s pending fatherhood and his loving relationship with his pregnant wife, Andie, a FBI agent, without losing the story’s suspense.”