York's Moon

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Engstrom's crime novel lacks the originality and inventiveness of her acclaimed fantasy and mystery blend, The Northwoods Chronicles (2008). A dying man, eventually identified as smalltime gangster Wayne Haas, falls from a train near Yorktown, a hobo camp outside the small California town of West Wheaton. When the locals learn of the murder, suspicion falls on Yorktown's three residents—its "mayor," York, who's blind; Denny, a restless drifter; and Sly, a Vietnam veteran. Clover, Denny's girlfriend, who discovered Haas in the weeds, turns unlikely sleuth to find the real killer and keep West Wheaton's crooked mayor from demolishing Yorktown. Readers will easily figure out who's behind Haas's death, and the author's efforts to make hobo culture and society something to be admired come across as too simplistic to be convincing. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews

Murder troubles the peace of a California hobo jungle.

York, the blind hobo who's lived so long by the side of West Wheaton's railroad tracks that the townsfolk have named the place after him, is the unofficial mayor of Yorktown. Together with angry, paranoid Vietnam vet Sly and footloose young stud Denny, he keeps the place so orderly that the locals have never lodged the slightest complaint. All that changes when someone tosses a dying man off a passing train. No one in Yorktown killed him, of course. But once word gets out that the settlement's latest resident is a corpse, not even sympathetic Sheriff Steve Goddard or Clover, the donut-shop clerk who's made Denny her lover and his two friends her personal crusade, can persuade thick-witted Deputy Travis, slimy mayor Milo Grimes or the railroad's bat-wielding thugs that York and his buddies are innocent—or that, innocent or not, they shouldn't be driven off and the site bulldozed. As Susie Marie Grimes traipses from bed to bed, shredding what's left of her husband's reputation, Clover turns Nancy Drew, determined to identify the real killer before her friends pay the price. It isn't long before she's solved the mystery, but not the riddle of how to use her information to prevent a confrontation that can't possibly end well.

Like her heroine, veteran Engstrom (The Northwoods Chronicles,2008, etc.) is less interested in solving the crime than in bringing her shadow world to life, as she does with authority, compassion and grace.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594149283
  • Publisher: Gale Cengage Learning
  • Publication date: 2/16/2011
  • Pages: 234
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    an entertaining murder mystery

    Near the Yorktown hobo camp just outside of West Wheaton, California, a man falls out of a train. Identified as a minor mobster Wayne Haas, he is found dead in nearby weeds by camp resident Clover; he was murdered.

    Sheriff Goddard assumes one of the Yorktown hobos killed Haas while his young Deputy Travis knows they did it for certain and plans to prove it the same way he learned law enforcement from TV shows. The prime suspects are blind camp Mayor York, Clover's hyperactive boyfriend Denny and combat fatigue Vietnam vet Sly. Clover investigates the homicide while the West Wheaton Mayor Milo Grimes uses the murder as an excuse to demolish Yorktown.

    York's Moon is an entertaining murder mystery starring an intriguing cast led by York who has a "calling" with a flock and courageous Clover. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that the Hass corpse is found and never slows down. However Yorktown lacks the gritty grime one would expect at this type of camp as instead of a place filled with disease, crime and drugs, it comes across as a well-run safe unincorporated village. Still in spite of the romanticizing of the hobo camp, fans will enjoy Clover's detecting.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2012

    Genre-stretching Mystery This book surprised me in a number of

    Genre-stretching Mystery

    This book surprised me in a number of ways, all pleasant. It is a compact tale, of a kind not often written these days. Which is to say the pay-off from reading it exceeds the investment of time required to do so. It's a murder mystery that adheres to few conventions of the genre. There is a character who ultimately solves the crime, but you might say it is solved as much by the pressures of group dynamics, or by a kind-hearted old hobo's stubborn refusal to change his ways.

    The hobo, York, has a camp on a rail siding in West Wheaton, California. "Yorktown" is comprised of York, Sly, a Vietnam vet with PTSD, and Denny, a wild, good-natured lad committed to a life of aimlessness. The trio form a microcosm community that defies stereotypes. York does not allow drinking, drugs, or violence in his camp, and his rules are enforced by Sly and Denny and York's legendary status among indigent road dwellers. Yorktown has become, thereby, an austere oasis of civility for homeless wanderers, and York himself a magnet for the troubled youths of West Wheaton, who find reassurance and encouragement in his counsel. The camp has long been ignored by the citizenry of West Wheaton, but when a murdered man falls from a train nearby, the camp loses invisibility, and the dynamics of the larger community are exposed in the crisis that follows.

    All of Engstom's characters are engagingly complex and genuine, including York and his companions. I suspect there are a lot of us with a York in our pasts. For me, it was a grizzled old parking lot attendant, erstwhile pool shark, who taught me to keep my eye on the ball, and took me as I was. Engstom reminds us that a person's value is not always evident in their appearance or circumstances, and tells a cracking good whodunit in the process.

    A fine read, well worth the effort

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