Teach teaches, Crunchy crunches, or would if he weren't getting too old, and other assorted folk of increasing years join up for the ride. I love the way the author collects her characters in Daughter am I, each interacting for just long enough to establish recognizable voice before the search moves on. The stories in this novel roll with the wheels of the bus, round and round through the tortuous history of Midwestern mobs, to the mystery of Mary's grandparents' demise... and on to a sort of grown-up Secret Seven treasure hunt, with all its curious side-journeys, dangerous foes, missing gold and mixed-up relationships.
Pat Bertram is a recently published author, and this is her third novel (already!). She's published with a small publisher called Second Wind, and if you haven't heard of her, or them, you might want to jump on the bandwagon now before Pat gets famous. She has a distinctive writing style, with good old-fashioned plots that drive forwards on the innocent enthusiasm of youth, and with characters that straightforwardly narrate their tales. But the stories Pat tells are thoroughly modern too, with up-to-date scientific and historical research, complex scenarios, and hints of next year's secrets and the next decade's headlines. Her characters are wonderful and flawed, old enough to have those tales to tell, and lively enough to have tales to build as well.
In this book I learned why the Syndicate's not the Mafia, how to read a serial number that's been filed off a gun, and how many people die per second in the United States. I learned about time and politics and attitudes, and even a bit about myself. There's gold in these pages, a gold standard you can really believe in, and treasure in the "elders" who seek it. Don't miss this book; don't avoid it just because you can't guess the genre. It's whatever you're looking for, and truly, while some of the characters may have been con-artists, that's not a con.