Saturday, May 30, 2020

SHEPHERD :: Catherine Jinks

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

Catherine Jinks's Shepherd takes place over several days in 1840 New South Wales, and the gritty cat-and-mouse thriller evokes emotions that linger. Tom Clay was 12 years old when he was nabbed for poaching and shipped to Australia to serve his sentence working for Mr. Barrett. Tom is reliable despite his age, and Barrett sends him to a remote shepherds' hut to help guard the flock.

A boy among rough and violent men, Tom has been failed by most everyone in his life. Trained to silence by his father, Tom keeps his own counsel, sharing himself only with his beloved dogs and fiercely tending the sheep he has named. Menace lurks in the form of Dan Carver, a former shepherd and "black-hearted villain" whose motto is "No witnesses." When Carver returns for vengeance, Tom goes on the run with Rowdy Cavanagh, a handsome no-hoper with the gift of gab that Tom wants nothing to do with.

Tom comes from the best poachers in Suffolk County, and his and Rowdy's lives now depend on his wit and skill. To beat Carver, he'll also need to share his burdens and trust others. Multiple award-winner Jinks (Evil Genius) steps out of her middle-grade norm and crafts a breathtaking pursuit novel full of brutality and tenderness. Painting the reality of the frontier colony, where "the blacks" were feared but the true treachery lay elsewhere, Jinks highlights a world of unfair punishment, where one must endure it, but the weight is lighter with a friend to share it.

STREET SENSE: In the fashion of True Grit, a boy and his unwanted companion navigate harsh territory to outwit a vicious man trying to kill them.I loved this book. It was a great "in peril on the run" story with tons of grit and heart. Picked it because of the Aussie author, will definitely go back for more of Jinks's work.

COVER NERD SAYS:  This rustic look with a highlighted pitchfork (which I can never view as a tool of innocent farming work) was a no-brainer for me. Still not a fan of cover blurbs, but at least this one, while lengthy, is tucked away somewhat unobtrusively. The layout is pleasing and the various font sizing and placement is also great on the eyes. But if I'm honest it had me at pitchfork.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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