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December 1941. America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police detective Joe McGrady is assigned to investigate a homicide that will change his life forever. Because the trail of murder he uncovers will lead him across the Pacific, far from home and the woman he loves; and though the U.S. doesn’t know it yet, a Japanese fleet is already steaming toward Pearl Harbor.Amazon.com
This extraordinary novel is so much more than just a gripping crime story—it’s a story of survival against all odds, of love and loss and the human cost of war. Spanning the entirety of World War II, FIVE DECEMBERS is a beautiful, masterful, powerful novel that will live in your memory forever.
I’ve been sitting on this book for a few months now. I received an advance reader copy from the publisher. I read it through the summer and did a second read through this week in anticipation of the release date. I flipped through the pages so often I somehow managed to misplace the press release, which I’d folded in half and used as a bookmark. While working through my loss, I made some discoveries.
The first discovery is more of an a-ha. There is a difference, I promise.
It appears as though the author, James Kestrel, has actually been to Hawaii. He has framed his story with the beauty of the islands and the sticky, heavy dread hanging in the air of a pre-war Honolulu. The characters (main and supporting) are very well synched with their time and it shows in the writing and the plot that the author has given many aspects of his character’s lives a lot of thought in that regard.
The second discovery is that this is not just a murder mystery. It’s not your typical whodunit. This novel is also a war story, sort of. I can’t imagine putting myself in Joe McGrady’s shoes. Perhaps because World War II was a war that shaped my family in so many ways, I am a little bit enamored with stories set throughout that time, in places relevant to survivors of war because I grew up hearing plenty of firsthand tales.
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve given Five Decembers four stars. I only take away a star because I feel like there were a few weaknesses in the story, but they weren’t so glaring that I felt readers couldn’t get past them (if they notice at all because I really had to think about it). I will certainly remember James Kestrel’s name and look for further works by him.
The writing is strong and the story is a gut punch. And, I absolutely mean that in a positive way.
As with all of my reviews, I will not give away too many spoilers. I don’t want to go through a play by play of the entire book because the blurb pretty much already does just that and I want you to read and enjoy the story and characters for yourself. I really do. And then I want you to come here and tell me about your reading experience, too.
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