Ken Kuhlken,
The Good Know Nothing: A California Century Mystery
(Poisoned Pen Press, 2014)

The Good Know Nothing is a unique mystery novel, as it does not merely rely on flash. It is full of substance and is a smart novel by a smart writer. It is pleasant to read and absorb the setting of the story, yet also be treated to not-so-far-fetched conspiracy theories of the early 20th century. This novel is full of subtly placed theories that recreate the 1930s very vividly and in a way that makes you appreciate the book and the writer even more. If you are a history buff, like me, you will appreciate the historical setting, mysteries, and characters such as The Sundance Kid, and his possibly faked death, and William Randolph Hearst and his "government by media" ideals.

While the story doesn't rely on its setting, it portrays the '30s very well, and the writing creates a vivid picture of all the places visited and the atmosphere of the scenes. Along with the setting, the characters were written very well, they are not cliched cut-and-paste characters, but characters with whom you can empathize with. The main character and protagonist, Charlie Hickey, is on a mission to find out the truth about his father's disappearance. Charlie's family friend, Bud, gives him a manuscript and tells him that he thinks Charlie's father wrote it. Throughout Charlie's mission to find his father, the search uncovers bigger and bigger conspiracy theories as to what is going on, and all of these twists and turns will keep the reader invested in both the story and Charlie Hickey.

The book is a fantastic mystery novel, and has become one of my favorites in the genre. The main characters are well written, very human, and throughout the book you will want to them to succeed. The setting and plot of the story are very unusual, and these were the parts of the novel that kept me interested. The historical setting and conspiracy theories are very well done and absorbing. When I finished reading, I actually decided to read more about the '30s and Hearsts' yellow journalism.

While most of the story was great, some of it was lacking. While the themes of redemption and forgiveness were interesting, they are overdone in novels; they didn't seem to have been done uniquely here, or added anything to this novel. Another complaint I had was that some of the characters may have only appeared in one scene but were mentioned throughout the story and, in doing this, the writer gives the reader a lot of unmemorable characters to remember. This can take away from the story because you have to stop while you're reading and remember whether that character was a family friend or a co-worker. The final complaint I have about the novel is that the ending could have been done better. It seemed kind of sloppily done, and didn't resonate well with me or my expectations.

All in all, this book is a great edition to my bookshelf and I would recommend it to all history buffs and mystery lovers.

book review by
Vlady Kozubnyak

6 September 2014

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