by Stephen Parrish
May 1 2010 by MIDNIGHT INK
Paperback, 384 pages
0738720569 (isbn13: 9780738720562)
rating: 5 of 5 stars
"There's a dead guy out there."
When a very old body and an even older gem surface in a bog in northern Germany, persons worldwide realize they're the missing clues to the Tavernier stones, a lost cache of legendary jewels. Amish-born cartographer John Graf throws in his lot with scholar-turned-thief David Freeman in this modern-day treasure hunt. Together with David's gorgeous partner-in-crime Sarah, they race around the world. They don't know it, but they're up against a German Kommissar, a rival crook, and a penurious gentlewoman who bears a striking resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West.
You know when you find the perfect pair of jeans? It's when you try them on in the fitting room, checking from all angles, and realize, "Wow, these make my butt look amazing." That's how you'll feel about Tavernier Stones (more or less). Reading this book makes you look - and feel - amazing.
Let's be honest. I wouldn't have picked up Tavernier Stones on my own. I'd read the first chapter at Book Roast (RIP), and I'd ordered a copy in support of Stephen, a friend in our 100+ person writing circle. Still, considering I'm named after a YA fantasy heroine, I didn't expect to adore this one quite so much as I did. I inhaled it - reading time: 2 hours, 47 minutes.
Stephen Parrish, much like a snake charmer, coaxed me out of literary complacency with a novel of intelligence and wit (o, the wit; the startling humor!) As a lover of YA, I'm suspect of harsh, bitter writing. Parrish's writing can be mellifluous, almost poetic. He's not permanently jaded about the human condition, as evidenced by this early, poetic statement about John Graf:
Of course, as a theologian, I'm suspect when religion garners mention on the book jacket. Parrish, however, dealt justly with the Amish faith and culture. As an intellectual, I'm suspect when mathematics code takes an entire chapter. Parrish keeps the pace going. The plot doesn't lag even in the chapters featuring pigpen cipher. Plus, I congratulated myself after I puzzled my way through the clues (with Parrish's omnipresent guidance).
His eyes stared frankly and uncritically, and if he made people feel transparent, he compensated by finding no flaws in their vitreous souls.
I'm afraid one particular strength of this novel will be overlooked, because it's so seamlessly and naturally assumed in Parrish's writing: its organic feminism. For example, Parrish could have flattened Sarah (Smith) Sainte-James into a caricature pancake. (And the one character who is flattened - literally - defies gender stereotypes.) Instead we see, as Graf does, through to Sarah's potential. As she develops her own strength, she realizes this is who she could have been all along. I liked Sarah, by the end (despite the fact that she's responsible for the worst romantic choice since Jo picked Dr. Baer over Laurie.)
If your favorite authors include Danielle Steele, Stephanie Meyer or Sarah Dessen, this is not a book you'd love. Everyone else will enjoy, if not devour, this fast-paced, carefully crafted treasure hunt. It's certainly gift-worthy, an absolutely perfect Father's Day gift, right down to the dedication Parrish makes to his daughter.
Adventures in Reading, Mark Terry, spyscribbler, Mom and More, murmurs, Richard Levangie, Christopher M. Park, Work in Progress, Adventures in Writing, Jen K. Blom, Hoosblog, Jude Hardin, Travis Erwin