by John A. Heldt
The Fair is Book 2 in the Time Box Series*. The Lanes, a family of six, are travelling through time with two machines that Mark Lane’s maniac ex-boss, Robert Devereaux, desperately wants back and he will stop at nothing to retrieve them and kill the Lane family. Aided by one working time box, Robert sends hitman Silas Bain back to find them. However, the Lanes have managed to evade Silas and are beginning to put down roots in 1890s Chicago but for how long…
Having read the first in this series and found it brilliant, I was really looking forward to The Fair. I was not disappointed. Once again, Mr Heldt has produced a really compelling, immersive and gripping read. The reader is brought deftly up to speed in the first few chapters without it becoming a tiresome rehash and then we’re off. Sometimes the will they/won’t they suspense almost becomes unbearable and the short chapter structure helps dilute this relentless pace. The depth of research applied to the novel is quite staggering and supremely interesting; I was completely transported to the Exposition and late 19th century Chicago. The first book focused quite a bit on Mark Lane (Father) but here there is more emphasis on the children, especially Jeremy. Jordan, as before, has a side narrative all of his own which worked really well. I thought the backstory of both Clara and Jessie who inhabit Jordan’s personal journey was thoughtfully considered and realised. I think it’s a clever technique to have him as the elder son branching out in a sub-plot that then flows back to the main narrative. It’s a diversionary tactic that keeps the story fresh and this ploy works equally well with Jeremy, who comes of age in this book, and Laura. Again, the characters that feature in both Jeremy and Laura’s life are well-rounded, interesting individuals. We do not hear so much from Mark and Mary (Mother) in this book but I thought how all the family had emotionally developed from the first novel where they could at times be a little detached. Despite the thrilling nature of The Fair, the Lanes are a comfortable tribe that I really felt I began to know in this instalment. The other character that is given more inclusion is Randy. I found his portrayal to be incredibly poignant and, at times, shot through with unbearable sadness. The scenes with him in the Janus boardroom were excruciatingly tense and you really felt the decency of the man. There are times I thought the narrative was a touch safe and meandered a bit but every little nuance in the story has a reason, no one detail is overlooked and every inch of prose has a job to do. It’s skilful, precise plotting that is underpinned by naturally good writing that just flows with integrity and authenticity.
An all-encompassing, excellently written and well-plotted second chapter in the time-travelling life of the Lanes. Highly recommended.
*For my review of The Lane Betrayal, the first book in the series, please click here. Buy from: