Abercrombie and Underwood is the story of Nick Underwood, a college student, who researches his great grandfather’s death as part of his thesis in history. He discovers that not only was it not a suicide, but also that his murderer Abercrombie died without revealing the whereabouts of his stolen gold. Set in Tusla, it’s a dual story in that we have glimpses into the past while following Nick in the present as he searches for the gold and discovers that Abercrombie’s great grandson is every bit as mean as his ancestor.
There’s a lot that’s good in this story, and I enjoyed the tale. Apart from Nick being incredibly stupid for a college student, the plot is basically strong, though a little slow to begin with. It becomes more interesting when Nick meets Lamont, the great grandson of Big Willlie, Abercrombie’s strong arm. Once Nick learns the truth from ninety-eight-year-old Big Willie and starts looking for the gold, the pacing speeds up and the story moves along at a good pace from there to the end. In places the novel reads like a history lesson, but though a little heavy handed for general fiction, it is acceptable here because Nick’s thesis is in history.
There’s a touch of romance, which adds more tension to the story as Nick becomes so fixated on finding the gold that he takes a metal detector onto the Abercrombie’s property. He is so obvious about it that Abercrombie easily catches him at it and calls the police. This stupidity and that fact that the police later seem to require little evidence to think Abercrombie is the bad guy, especially after Big Willie shoots two of his men, is the weak part of the plot for me. I accepted it, however, on the basis that apparently in the U.S.A it’s okay for someone to shoot anyone who comes into your house unannounced and uninvited. I can believe that of America though because their belief in the right of people to bear arms is so strong that they are willing to risk their kids being massacred just to hold onto that – but I digress.
Big Willie is the only truly complex character, and that makes him real and interesting. Nick we come to know well enough, but we are told about him rather than shown and that gives it little impact. Lamont remains one dimensional.
Overall, the book doesn’t attain its potential impact due to a large portion of it being told rather than shown. Many of the action scenes, particularly those in the past, are written in a more immediate way, and they are the places where the book comes alive. The rest of the prose is simply too passive to fully engage a reviewer who reads as many books as I.
Confusing point of view changes are another problem. At times the book is in omniscient POV which gives some freedom in quickly changing viewpoints, but they are still best avoided, and at other times the book is in third person close and the changes are not well handled. Most of these changes would be okay if a blank line separated them, but instead we have seemingly random blank lines in places where they shouldn’t be. The problems with the prose in this book could be fixed by a good line editor who knows the difference between telling and showing.
The book is worth a read is you don’t mind a laid back telling style.