William Martin,
Harvard Yard
(Warner, 2004)

Harvard is a place of reverence, a bastion of solidity, an institution of intelligence and authority. And a palace of secrets, intrigue and even murder -- as alumni and rare books dealer Peter Fallon soon discovers.

Fallon is hired by one of the school's most powerful alumni and oldest family names. His assignment is seemingly innocuous: to find the diaries of the hallowed Wedge family. But as he digs deeper into the past, he learns quickly how deeply intertwined are the fates of the Wedge family and Harvard: both in the past, and in the future. But, though casualties mount, Fallon can't turn away from his quest. For who could possibly turn their back on a lost Shakespearean play, when it lurks somewhere in the bowels of America's most storied university?

William Martin has crafted a thinking-man's adventure with the entertaining Harvard Yard. He deftly blends history, adventure, mystery and romance into a late-night with the book-light. To his great credit, he interweaves a historical narrative with a contemporary mystery, and keeps the reader's attention gripped from chapter to chapter -- without the inevitable skipping that plagues most dual-narrative novels.

But the book's best points, even with the great plot, are Martin's rich characters and his skilled manipulation of knowledge. He pulls the reader on a historical journey through Harvard's history, providing first-row seats into the seamy underside of that revered institution; he also carries the reader along with Peter Fallon's quest, providing tantalizing glimpses of the prize as it surfaces, submerges and resurfaces throughout history. And the tale of the Wedge family is so strong and rich, it could stand on its own as family-saga novel.

This is a tale you may never want to stop reading, even when you have work the next day and your flashlight is flickering. Take it on the train or in the bathtub, or sneak it into your cubby at work, because once you start reading, Harvard Yard won't let you go.

- Rambles
written by Tracie Vida
published 19 March 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.