Title: Eagle and Crane
Author: Suzanne Rindell
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Son’s/Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
(Digital ARC graciously provided by publisher via Edelweiss)
Suzanne Rindell combines historical fiction, mystery, romance and family drama in her third novel Eagle and Crane.
Louis Thorn and Haruto “Harry” Yamada — Eagle and Crane — are the star attractions of Earl Shaw’s Flying Circus, a daredevil (and not exactly legal) flying act that traverses Depression-era California. The young men have a complicated relationship, thanks to the Thorn family’s belief that the Yamadas — Japanese immigrants — stole land that should have stayed in the Thorn family.
When Louis and Harry become aerial stuntmen, performing death-defying tricks high above audiences, they’re both drawn to Shaw’s smart and appealing stepdaughter, Ava Brooks. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and one of Shaw’s planes mysteriously crashes and two charred bodies are discovered in it, authorities conclude that the victims were Harry and his father, Kenichi, who had escaped from a Japanese internment camp they had been sent to by the federal government. To the local sheriff, the situation is open and shut. But to the lone FBI agent assigned to the case, the details don’t add up.
Thus begins an investigation into what really happened to cause the plane crash, who was in the plane when it fell from the sky, and why no one involved seems willing to tell the truth.
A plane crash and two dead bodies, one too badly burned to even identify, opens up the story immediately bringing to the fore the mystery that readers will have to puzzle out throughout the whole book. At the center of it all are three characters – Haruto “Harry” Yamada, Louis Thorn and Ava Brooks. FBI Agent Bonner adds up tension to the story, playing the role of a connector stitching together the pieces of the story. The narrative toggles back and forth detailing the family feud between the Yamadas and the Thorns, the beginning of Harry and Louis’ daredevil act, and the internment of Japanese immigrants in the U.S. during World War II.
This was a slow starter for me. Rindell’s story took time to unfold, her prose stilted at times and meandering even at some points. Eagle and Crane is not the type of book you just pick up and read in one go. This sometimes counts against the book for me, but somehow I just couldn’t put this one down and let it go unfinished.
Meticulously researched and carefully detailed, Eagle and Crane is an immersive work that will transport readers to a time when America let fear rule over her.
I’ve read quite a few historical novels set during WWII but not one of them included anything about Japanese internment camps, so this was both a revelation and an informative bit of history for me. I didn’t know that this happened and I just can’t help thinking how it somehow mirrors what is currently happening in U.S. right now.
But more than the strong historical foundations of this story, it was the characters that made me stick through finishing this book.
All three of the main characters – Ava, Harry and Louis – were well-developed and complex. Their trio is Eagle and Crane’s heart and soul. Harry and Louis’ complicated friendship, Ava’s love for both boys, Louis’ conflicted loyalties – these fuel most of the book, and it were these parts I loved most. I think it brought out the human factor I’m looking for in every historical fiction and allowed me to connect more to the story. Though I must say, Agent Bonner’s parts often felt pat and contrived to me.
Overall, Eagle and Crane was a satisfying read. If you’re one for historical fiction, then I definitely recommend this book to you.