Michael Malone is a prolific writer who has won awards ranging from an Emmy to an Edgar; he favors robust casts of characters and sprawling, intricate plots—and he continues in that vein with his 10th novel, The Four Corners of the Sky.
Annie Peregrine's father Jack drops her off with his sister Sam on Annie's seventh birthday, gives her his airplane, a Piper Warrior named King of the Sky, and then disappears. Now, on her 26th birthday, Annie travels from Annapolis, where she's an ace flyer and instructor, to Emerald, North Carolina, where Sam still lives with Clark Goode, her longtime friend and housemate. Sam and Clark have raised Annie like a daughter, with only the rare, cryptic phone call or postcard from Jack over the years.
Out of the blue, Jack calls on Annie's birthday, tells her he's "dying in St. Louis," and pleads with her to fly the King of the Sky there to meet him. Annie does just that—setting in motion a bizarre cat-and-mouse chase involving an intriguing cast of characters including con-men, the Mafia, a Cuban refugee who effortlessly spouts Shakespeare, various FBI operatives and Annie's soon-to-be-ex-husband, a pilot with a tendency toward adultery.
As Annie, Sam and Clark have suspected all along, Jack is more than just a "capricious" dad. He's been charged with 11 felonies, and has three outstanding warrants, the latest for absconding with a hugely valuable gold- and jewel-encrusted statue smuggled out of Cuba. But despite his shortcomings, Jack is her father, and Annie will do whatever she can to keep him out of jail. She follows him from St. Louis (where he eludes some Mafia thugs by exiting through his hotel bathroom vent) to Miami (where he hides from the FBI in the Golden Day rest home) to Key West (where Annie finally discovers the identity of her mother).
Each of Malone's characters is larger than life, and someone readers would love to encounter in the real world. Intricate relationships reveal themselves as Malone offers sporadic glimpses into the past to illuminate Annie's murky background. Malone's latest brims with humor and pathos—it's an engaging, multifaceted saga touting the power of love and family to overcome all, even a lifetime of apparent neglect.
Deborah Donovan writes from La Veta, Colorado. Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 April #2
A long but satisfying tale of crime and death foretold that blends hints of The Great Santini, Top Gun and Fried Green Tomatoes with copious draughts of Shakespeare.Annie Peregrine Goode--a charged name, that--is a tough customer, but easy on the eyes. (Isn't that always the way?) So when a leering buffoon, rebuffed, steals a bit of tomato from her guacamole and makes Hannibal Lecter noises with it by way of expressing contempt, she is not at all above grabbing his wrist and "compressing nerves with an accuracy that the Navy had taught her." Well, the Navy is nothing if not thorough, and Annie, a flight instructor at Annapolis with a need for speed--beg pardon, a "passion for velocity"--in vehicles of every description, is prepared for just about any eventuality except for the sudden reappearance of her deadbeat dad, who gave her a model airplane when she was but a little girl and then split from their Carolina home. Malone (Theater Studies and English/Duke Univ.; The Last Noel, 2002, etc.) knows that the small-town South is a subject all unto itself, and no matter how eccentric the characters, they're wholly believable in that context--the kind who, say, board up windows in advance of a hurricane and then settle in for a film festival in the basement. ("Les Diaboliques. Clouzot. I've got a great print.") The amiably meandering narrative picks up speed--"Go, Annie P. Goode!"--when Dad reappears, now apparently dying. Peppering his pages with funny conversations, learned references to the Bard and keenly observed apercus about family life, memory, forgiveness and all the puzzling ways that love and friendship can twist and turn, Malone delivers a tale that takes a little long to tell but that pays off nicely in the end.Secrets and intrigues among the honeysuckle: a sun-washed yarn of the New South, affectionately told. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2009 April #1
Navy pilot Annie P. Goode comes home for her 26th birthday to her doting aunt and uncle in Emerald, NC, exactly where her con man father, Jack Peregrine, left her 19 years earlier. But Jack's urgent message that he's dying and needs Annie to fly his old Piper Warrior to St. Louis upends her life. Annie agrees, hoping finally to learn the name of her mother. In a week's time, Annie finds herself in St. Louis, Miami, and Havana, always a step behind Jack, as everyone seeks a golden, gem-encrusted "Queen of the Sea" statue (think The Maltese Falcon). Malone (The Last Noel) employs his trademark cast of characters and wry humor, including using titles of old movies for his 55 chapters. This long novel could have used some serious editing, and a love scene or two between Annie and her Sergeant Hart would have been a welcome relief from the extensive Peregrine family history and the overuse of the f word. Purchase where Malone has an established following.--Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights[Page 71]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
A daredevil pilot heads out on a wild goose chase and learns to slow down and enjoy life in Malone's (The Last Noel) exuberant but ultimately unwieldy 10th novel. After years of accompanying her con artist father on his exploits, seven-year-old Annie is left on the family's North Carolina farm with her aunt Sam. Annie relishes the stability, but still craves excitement as she grows up, learning to fly the single-engine plane her father left her and becoming a navy fighter pilot. When her father calls years later, he claims that he's dying and needs her help with one last escapade. She agrees--in exchange for the name of the mother she's never known. Annie travels to St. Louis, Mo.; Miami; and Cuba in the service of her elusive father, meeting quirky eccentrics along the way, including her one true love. Bizarre coincidences, caricatured criminals and characters who spurt groan-worthy puns, classic movie lines and Shakespeare quotes in place of meaningful dialogue keep the novel teetering toward the absurd. The novel's ambitious blend of humor, mystery, adventure and sentimentality can be as exhausting as Annie's fast-paced flights. (May)[Page 38]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.