I absolutely loved Joël Dicker’s The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, and had been looking forward to The Baltimore Boys. Needless to say, I was delighted when my Netgalley request to read and review this novel was approved.
Marcus Goldman has bought a house in Boca Raton, Florida, somewhere quiet where we can get away from the hustle and bustle of New York and focus on writing his next book.
But running into an old acquaintance brings back memories of his cousins, Hillel and Woody. Best friends as well as family, the three were incredibly close when they were younger. But tragedy struck, and it’s now time for Marcus to discover what really happened to his cousins and to tell their story.
Their is always a risk in picking up the follow up novel to a book you loved. Expectations are high, and the author has a lot to live up to. And what if you don’t like it!? These were my feelings going into The Baltimore Boys, and I have to admit that whilst I liked it, I didn’t love it as much as The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair (TTATHQA).
The Baltimore Boys is quite a different novel to its predecessor, despite both featuring young writer Marcus Goldman. Whilst TTATHQA focused on his investigation into “the Harry Quebert Affair”, The Baltimore Boys sees him looking into his own past and working out what happened to his cousins. The reader knows from early on that there was a family tragedy, but the specifics aren’t revealed until quite late into the novel. To me, it came across as Marcus reminiscing about his past and therefore didn’t have the investigative quality of TTATHQA, although he does have to talk to various family members and friends in order to fit all of the puzzle pieces together.
In order to understand the events surrounding his cousins, Marcus takes the reader back to the 1960s to examine the relationship between his own father, his uncle Saul (Hillel’s father), and his grandfather, as well as his relationship as a child with Hillel and adoptive cousin, Woodrow (Woody) Finn, a young boy that Hillel’s family take in. The three boys formed an incredibly close bond as children, despite their being differences in their characters, and this bond was maintained into adulthood. I really enjoyed learning about their childhood antics and seeing them develop into young men with promising futures. For me, this was the best part of the story – seeing these young boys grow up, albeit it overlaid with the knowledge that some tragedy is coming, but with no idea of what happens or why which adds some tension to the tale.
Interspersed with Goldman’s reflections on the past is what is going on in his current life as he tries to write his novel and attempts to rekindle his relationship with an old flame. Because of the way that the novel jumps around in time, I found it a little harder to get into than I was expecting, although I did want to find out what happened. Along with the oncoming tragedy, there are multiple puzzling elements to the tale, such as why “the Baltimore Goldmans” – Saul, Hillel and family – were held in much higher esteem than “the Montclair Goldmans” – Marcus’s own family. All of the answers were tied up nicely by the end, and Dicker brings the novel to a satisfying conclusion.
Whilst The Baltimore Boys didn’t quite live up to the promise of TTATHQA, this is still an enjoyable read, and one that I would recommend to those who enjoy the unravelling of a family mystery, such as Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread.
The Baltimore Boys was published on 18 May. Many thanks to the publisher, MacLehose Press, and Netgalley for providing a copy for review.