3 out of 4 stars
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Over the years, she’d learned to be independent by avoiding entanglements with the men who often sought her affections. This wasn’t easy, though, considering she was a gifted musician with a loyal following, and even popular with fellow musicians. As a single mum with a grown-up daughter, Irma’s turning point came about when Louie, the owner of several popular music clubs on Bourbon Street, New Orleans, assaulted her. This experience, apart from entrenching further her views on men, made her make the career decision of moving away from long-term contracts and becoming more of a freelance performer.
Shortly afterward, that’s when it happened – her chance encounter with Fred, a man originally from Mystic, Connecticut. The same one that has inspired the title The Man from Mystic written by Timothy Schell. Initially, his character is flawed (withdrawn); his only company, a dog named Sally. The encounter with Irma, however, quickly changes things. In fact, at one moment he’s so overcome with joy that he lets her know that she has made his ambitions come to fruition. Irma, on the other hand, comes into the relationship looking for honesty and trust. And being the analytical person that she is, she’s not devoid of an exit strategy, just in case things went south and her desire to stay with Fred vanishes.
Schell’s plot is based on the budding friendship between Irma and Fred, and their need to discover each other’s strengths. Of Irma, Fred says, “life has been an unbelievable adventure for me since I met you. I am a new and improved person.” Irma, on the other hand, “feels empowered to do things … even big things.” Consequently, quite by chance, they open up to the challenge of unraveling a mystery involving an undocumented immigrant and a top-secret overseas mission involving the U.S. government.
Those who believe eating well and traveling well go together, then, will appreciate Schell’s novel even more. For starters, his level of description whilst describing cultural attractions present in the countries the characters find themselves in is simply impressive. For example, one will come across such cuisines as the Italian dish of “Osso Bucco” with “gremolata,” the Turkish “Lahana Kapuska” and ground lamb served with plain yogurt or the Indian fish “Kasmiri” and “Murg Massalam.” Additionally, there are various Turkish cultural sites that have been mentioned, e.g., the Ottoman era Mihrimah Sultan Cami Mosque built in the mid-sixteenth century, a Byzantine church built in 537 CE and the Rumelihisari, an Ottoman fortress built in 1452.
The novel’s tone is animated and excited, as the author ties in together the three character-driven subplots and covers the tourist attractions found in Turkey, Egypt, and Thailand. Furthermore, the combination of the subplots and cultural descriptions make the chapters move with a leisurely-paced sequence that helps keep the tension in the story high.
On the negative, I found a high number of editorial errors composed of missing punctuation marks, a misplaced period, a typo and a wrongly used word. The strong points in favor of the book, however, make me rate it 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to those who enjoy good adventure stories domiciled in foreign lands. Additionally, avid travelers will also identify with some of the places and cuisines described. On the contrary, the book is least suited to romance lovers. Lastly, some themes handled by the novel include violence against women, diplomacy, single parenthood, friendship, and travel.
The Man from Mystic
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