Awesome Indies is one of the most-respected guides and advisers of Indie Publishing. It has just sent Wrinkled Heartbeats its notice of approval. They suggest their Awesome Indies Approval (AIA) badge “takes the risk out of buying Indie.” The endorsement does not come easily. Two AIA reviewers/editors must approve the book with at least a 4-star ranking. Here’re the two reviews of Wrinkled Heartbeats.
George McKlane, a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War who became wealthy as a derivatives trader, lives alone in a mansion in Florida. He mourns the loss of his wife and has frequent flashbacks to an epic battle of the war, the Marine breakout at Koto-ri, where his life was saved by his senior NCO, Raymond Chapman. His son, a Marine Corps colonel, has suggested that he sell his house and move to a retirement community. When he decides to sell, he’s approached by Anthony Silberg, a shady property broker with ties to organized crime, who has plans to move into his own money laundering operation.
What follows in Wrinkled Heartbeats by Temple Emmet Williams is a chilling account of what happens when George discovers Silberg’s plot and decides not to go through with the sale. Silberg’s mob boss, Angelo Rossellini, learns of his plans and hires professional hitman, Torbjorn Petersson, a former Marine Corps sniper, to eliminate both Silberg and McKlane. From that point, things begin to take strange turns as the interrelationships among the people involved begin to complicate matters. Much hinges on events that took place during the fateful move of the allied forces from the Chosin Reservoir after the Chinese forces intervened in 1950.
Told in present tense, Wrinkled Heartbeats is fraught with tension as past and present relationships collide. The language of the story is almost matter-of-fact, much like a military dispatch, which only adds to the suspense, and pulls the reader fully into events as they unfold. The author has very skillfully inserted clues to identities and relationships, and then pulls them together neatly at crucial points, which only serves to keep the story moving forward with all the force and determination of an army on the move.
Characters are fully developed, and their actions, which seem strange upon their first appearance in the story, make perfect sense in the end.
The present tense, unusual in a mystery story, works perfectly in this one, giving it a sense of immediacy that is fitting for the theme. There’s nothing not to like about this book. The story moves flawlessly from start to finish, with a conclusion that ties up all loose ends, and at the same times leaves an opening for a sequel.
I give the book an unqualified five stars.
Widower and war hero George McKlane rattles around his luxury canal-side home in the Palm Beach area of Florida. Rich, yet lonely, his son suggests it’s high time George sold up and downsized. Most folks he meets are deferential, apart from the mobsters, small-time crooks and other slippery customers who seem to inhabit the swamp of what is high end Florida realty.
Alas, something isn’t quite right in paradise when a too good to be true offer on George’s house comes with a few strings attached. And, as the synopsis states, ‘the only person who can save him is the person hired to kill him.’
The author immerses the reader into his story world, from the mountains of Appalachia to the Florida Everglades, with skill and professionalism. He’s an engaging storyteller and this is highly polished and well written.
The characterisation, particularly of Anthony Silberg, the antagonist is superb. He’s a three-dimensional villain, right down to his nasty casual racism towards George’s employee Sharonda. She too is a wonderfully nuanced character, giving as good as she gets, batting Mr Silberg’s words straight back at him.
If you like your protagonist to be the all-American hero, you will enjoy the characterisation of George McKlane, but for this cynical reviewer’s taste, he was a little too perfect. I was itching to see him do something naughty, even if it was to take a medication he wasn’t supposed to, that he’d slipped past the controlling Sharonda, as the only bad thing he does is hide a few chocolate bars. I’d also like to see inside George’s head a little more, now that he is no longer obeying orders. All the characters though, including George, are further enhanced by their credible and realistic dialogue.
So we come now to the thorny problem of exposition, and in particular, the use of flashbacks. No matter how well written, as they are in this book, flashbacks are expository, slowing the story down. When used sparingly, flashback reveals character and or backstory, in order to enhance the plot of the main story. Frequent flashbacks can be a sign that the status quo in the present story world has been disrupted and by trying to make sense of his past, the character can get on with his future. But, George’s state of mind seems remarkably well balanced in his present world. And the reason he has these flashbacks, we are told, is because of a side effect of his particular medication, Prednisone. For the benefit of the plot though, it would work better if the drug he was taking gave him hallucinatory dreams, rather than the complete memories of the past. That way then the flashbacks could be shorter and written as fragments, which is the way that most of us actually dream. There is enough material in the Korea sections for a whole other story as there are seven long flashbacks. The narrative summary, used as a storytelling device, made me think that I was reading an in-depth magazine feature article, rather than a thriller.
Some judicious pruning of the Korean sections would help up the pace, particularly in the first half of the book, which is a little slow, which is a shame, because the last part is action-packed. There is also in the earlier half some unintentional repetition. One example is where we through the eyes of Martha we are given the full tour of George’s house and the artefacts in the War Room. Then the reader sees the same objects again, only this time from Anthony’s point of view.
An impressive novel that has been professionally copy edited and proofread.
Four and a half stars.