Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jenoff's Almost Home Lacks Impact of Historical Novels

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Once upon a time, American Jordan Weiss could hardly stand to leave England. Now, she's forcing herself to return. The closer she gets to Cambridge, the faster her college memories come crashing down on her - of pursuing her graduate degree; rowing on the River Cam; falling in love with prickly Jared Short; and falling apart after his tragic drowning. Jordan, an intelligence officer with the State Department, has spent the last decade taking on every dangerous assignment available in an effort to outrun her pain. Now, her mission - taking care of a terminally ill friend - will take her right back to the scene of her heartache.

Almost Home, Pam Jenoff's new book, follows Jordan as she settles in London, near her ailing friend. While Sarah withers away from ALS, Jordan accepts an assignment to flush out an Albanian crime ring. It's not her usual thing and partnering with the roguish Sebastian makes her more than a little uncomfortable. Still, the job keeps her mind off her troubles. Then, her past comes strolling down the steet in the form of Chris Bannister, her former rowing teammate. Convinced that Jared's death was intentional, Chris begs for Jordan's help to look into the "accident." Doing so means going back to Cambridge - the one place she vowed never to go - and facing the pain that almost destroyed her. Is it worth it to finally get some closure? Or will stepping into the past overwhelm Jordan's already fragile sanity?

The further Jordan wades into these mysteries, the more dangerous her new life becomes. Could an old friend be tied up with the Albanians? Who was Jared Short, really? Did the powerful swimmer really drown or did his research into World War II uncover something shocking enough to get him killed? What is the truth? Will digging for it earn Jordan the same fate as her college boyfriend?

I didn't enjoy Almost Home nearly as much as I did Jenoff's historical novels, but I still found the novel engrossing. I admit it took me awhile to warm up to the story - I didn't love Jordan's character and the story action builds rather slowly. Although the ending's pretty predictable, it still had my flying through pages anxious to see what happened next. Jenoff uses the same tense, heart-pounding action that drew me to The Kommandant's Girl and The Diplomat's Wife, but I found the historical settings so much more intriguing than that of modern London. While Jenoff's own experiences as a diplomat imbue all her books with adventure and authenticity, it's her great love for WWII that makes them unique. Almost Home is okay - certainly not the best thriller I've ever read, but far, far from the worst - but it lacks the impact of her first two books. Historical fiction is where Pam Jenoff truly shines. Let's hope she's headed back to familiar territory. And soon.

(Readalikes: The Diplomat's Wife by Pam Jenoff)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for some language, violence and sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received this book from the author. Thanks, Pam!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this novel, but I have not read her previous novels yet.

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