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Palace Council    by Stephen L. Carter order for
Palace Council
by Stephen L. Carter
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Palace Council, by Stephen L. Carter who also wrote New England White, is another thrilling winner. Carter has created a gripping scenario from events in the United States and worldwide during the 1950s and 60s and into the 70s, changing only a few historical happenings to further his plot.

Eddie Wesley, an up-and-coming black author on the outs with his preacher father for not picking a more prestigious occupation, is concerned with the disappearance of his sister June. Pregnant by an unknown man, she left for a trip with a friend. Neither resurfaced. As she was a vigorous political activist, Eddie worries that certain factions may have kidnapped June. He refuses to believe she is dead.

Through two decades, he searches for any word of her, hoping that she had gone underground. During that period of time, the world continues to revolve through the Vietnam war; protesters; hippies; JFK's assassination; the national guard shootings at Kent State; Watergate and Nixon's resignation; Bobby Kennedy's assassination as well as those of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Along with Eddie, the reader meets Nixon, as well as other well-known personages. Eddie is not impressed with the titles of the men with whom he mingles. What he wants from them is word of his sister.

Palace Council intrigues in addition to placing the reader in events of the times. J. Edgar Hoover has been much maligned. According to this book, he deserves everything that was said of him. Reading of American history in this manner makes me wonder how the people elected ever got in power. And how I wish they hadn't.

Life is never easy, but it can become much more interesting by reading books such as Palace Council. I can reveal no more of this fine tome. Don't want to disclose too much. The ending is not how I wanted it to end. But it is the rational one. Read it. Enjoy it. It's a long book. You'll have time to luxuriate in it. Pass it on for others to read. And be thankful to have survived that tumultuous time.

2nd Review by Barbara Lingens:

Opening with a fateful meeting of very influential people, the Palace Council, who agree to a plan that 'for all its brilliance, was evil,' the book then focuses on Eddie Wesley's search for his missing sister Junie. Eddie is a confident but polite young man of the 'darker nation,' whose search leads him to the uppermost salons of Harlem, to its depths, to Washington and Vietnam. His contacts include Joseph Kennedy, Herbert Hoover, Langston Hughes and President Nixon, and very quickly he finds out that his sister's disappearance is part of a much larger, much more insidious effort.

Once again, Stephen Carter has written a very satisfying novel. This time his characters are not only movers and shakers in their own social circle but also in the country. The time period is between the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 and Nixon's resignation in 1974. In his author's note Carter very carefully documents the small changes he made to history so that his narrative would be served. Many lesser known happenings in the United States come to light in this story.

There are many characters to keep track of so we have to pay attention, but the rewards are great. We learn about a part of our society that has not received much attention, black middle- and upper-classes, all the while eagerly turning the pages to see how Eddie finally learns what really happened to his sister. At the same time, Carter is at pains to make us understand that America had, and still has, sinister forces at work and that we should be glad there are still people like Eddie who have not given up hope or honor.

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