by John A. Heldt
The Lanes, now a family of seven, are back again, travelling through time to evade Mark Lane’s maniac ex-boss, Robert Devereaux. Devereaux has already sent hitman, Silas Bain, back to the 19th Century twice to find and kill them. However, the Lanes managed to evade Silas and Sea Spray finds them making a new life for themselves in the Roaring Twenties but as they begin to forge permanent and meaningful relationships in 1927 are they making it harder for themselves and easier for Robert Devereaux?
Sea Spray is the third in the Time Box series, the first two are set in mid-19th Century Washington and late 19th Century Chicago. Sea Spray departs a little from both of these in terms of setting and narrative. All the excellent ingredients of The Lane Betrayal* and The Fair* are here but Mr. Heldt ratchets the tension up to fever pitch in this third instalment. The gloves are most definitely off. There has always been an optimistic, slightly happy go lucky streak running through the Lanes but Sea Spray is darker both in emotion and action and it provides for a thrilling, nerve-shredding read. We now have an additional main character, Jessie, Jordan’s wife and various sub-plots and intrigues; more so than the previous books. But, boy, do they work. Credible, balanced and crafted with brilliant twists and reveals that demonstrate an absolute mastery of foreshadowing and plot strategy.
However, Sea Spray certainly stands alone, the reader is brought unassumingly up to speed with the salient facts of the last two books woven throughout the prose. The structure of the novel is reassuringly familiar; short chapters told from multiple perspectives which just slow the narrative in the right places (in parts, it’s almost too nail-biting) and also provide the characters and the plot with additional depth and dimension. Laura and Ashley, the Lane daughters, are brought to the forefront and there is an intriguing sub-plot hinted at with the Price family whom the Lanes befriend which gave another strand to Sea Spray without threatening to overshadow the thrust of the main plot. I liked the mirror image family of the Prices; it could have been viewed as a little convenient but it’s written with utter believability and enough subtle difference.
Randy Taylor, the Lanes connection to present day and their old life is, again, excellently used to drive momentum and bridge any gaps. The scenes with his mother, Melody, were heart-breaking and the exchanges between him and Devereaux literally vibrated off the page with tension and unspoken accusation.
The dialogue in Sea Spray is deceptively well-written and convincing. Mr. Heldt effortlessly switches between the frenzied chatter of two 13-year-old girls to the verbal thrust and parry of Robert and Randy and the conflicted angst of Laura. The prose throughout is confident, accomplished and faultlessly edited.
As with the other two novels, we meet historical characters as they embark on their claims to fame; Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Gershwin et al., but it’s not overdone or stagey, complementing the narrative with sublime levels of researched detail and fact.