BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bea Reviews Thoreau in Phantom Bog by B.B. Oak

Publisher: Kensington
Series: Henry David Thoreau Mystery #3 
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | OmniLit*  | iTunes | Barnes & Noble
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Blurb from goodreads:

Henry David Thorea’s impassioned activism in the Underground Railroad leads him away from the banks of Walden Pond into a morass of murder…

In the spring of 1848, Thoreau returns to Plumford, Massachusetts, in search of a fellow conductor on the Underground Railroad, who has gone missing along with the escaped female slave he was assigned to transport. With the help of his good friend, Dr. Adam Walker, Thoreau finds the conductor—shot to death on a back road.

When the two men discover that Adam’s beloved cousin Julia has given the slave safe harbor, their relief is counterbalanced by concern for Julia, who has put herself in grave danger. Another conductor has been murdered in a neighboring town and a letter has been found from someone claiming to have been hired to assassinate anyone harboring fugitive slaves. With all of them now potential targets, the need for Thoreau and Adam to apprehend the killer is more urgent than ever.

Bea's Thoughts:

This book appealed to me because it's set locally. I grew up and currently live in the area where the book is set. But I was also hesitant because its central figure was a real person and using a real person in fiction, especially as the lead, can go badly. But, this wasn't bad. For one thing, Thoreau is not actually a central figure despite the series being named after him. The story is told from two perspectives, one from a friend of Henry's, the town doctor Adam, and the other from that of the doctor's lover Julia. We never actually see anything from Henry's POV. But, he does much of the investigating and instigates certain events.

The character of Henry David Thoreau seems consistent with the historical one and I appreciate that. I just wish the authors had developed him more. I feel like I learned nothing new about Thoreau while what we see and hear seems consistent with what I remember from reading his writings years ago. It may be time to re-read some. :) I liked Thoreau and am interested in learning more.

The setting rang true and I had fun trying to line up places and place names with current places and locations. Plumford is fictional but Concord, Acton (where I worked for many years and lived for several), and Waltham are all real. Plumford seems as if it could be Bedford. Oaks has a lovely knack for description, there's lots of meticulous detail, and I could easily visualize the settings described.

There were several mysteries and I figured out some but not others. There were red herrings galore and lots of clues. A few things were obvious but it seemed as if the author made them intentionally obvious. There were several plots and story lines and the stories were very much centered in the time period in which the book is set. Although there's one moment where a character says something so out of context and foreign to the time period that it drew me right out of the story. It was a very contemporary perspective and concept and it was jarring. But it was just one moment in the entire story and the story as a whole is thoroughly researched without ever feeling like I'm reading a treatise or text book.

Although I never felt a connection to Thoreau, I liked Adam and Julia as well as some of the secondary characters. The story was a little slow at times with almost too many story lines and at times I felt at a disadvantage at not having read the previous books but I enjoyed this visit to colonial times where I live and I'll check out additional books in the series. 


  1. Thanks for stopping by. I'm not going to be able to host any challenges next year. Would you like to take over the library one?

    Gina, a book dragon, blogging at Book Dragon's Lair

  2. This one sounds good. Another book I couldn't read until I read the previous books though. Great review!

    1. Thanks Yvonne. I did wish I had read the previous books. The author worked in back story but I felt a bit lost at times.

  3. While I don't live in the area I was intrigued by the Thoreau connection. I'm glad that she stayed true to what we know of him even if he wasn't developed more. I'm curious about this series but it definitely sounds like I need to start with the first one. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I think it would be best to start at the beginning but the book is doable as a stand alone.

  4. I love when books are set in places I'm so familiar with. It sounds like an interesting book

  5. I love that they seem to have nailed your local setting. Sounds interesting and I appreciate how well researched it seems to be too.

    1. They really did nail the setting, both geographically and historically.

  6. I enjoyed the setting so much and found myself wishing I had better knowledge of the area. It was an enjoyable book and I loved the insight into the Underground Railroad. Being raised as a Quaker, that was naturally something I heard a lot about when learning about Quaker history!


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