by John A. Heldt
It is August 2021 and eminent physicist Mark Lane at Janus Enterprises has developed two time travelling machines. It becomes evident that his megalomaniac business partner, Robert Devereaux, wants to use the boxes for villainous reasons. With the help of a friend on the inside, Mark decides not only to blow the whistle on Devereaux and his intentions, but to uproot his wife Mary, and children, Jordan, Laura, Jeremy and Ashley. He uses one of the machines to travel to, what he believes, will be the relative safety and anonymity of the closing months of the American Civil War in 1865. They pack essentials from their modern day lives to help them survive and hopefully, thrive. After some adjustment, the Lanes settle well into their new personas; finding employment, friends and lovers. However, it was only a matter of time before Robert Devereaux attempted to exact his revenge by sending a highly-trained operative back through one hundred and fifty years to find them…
I thought this book was brilliant. Not only is it a compulsive page-turner; the quality of the writing, the story and the way Mr Heldt has structured the novel are absolutely first-class. The opening chapters plunge us straight into Mark Lane’s mind as he prepares to leave present-day. It’s a thrilling yet measured beginning, raising lots of questions but also answering a few. There is a confidence and immediate solid dependability in Mr Heldt’s writing that sweeps you seamlessly into and through the novel.
We meet a fair, few characters; the Lanes themselves total five but each one has their own nuances; patterns and quirks that make them subtly yet easily identifiable. Especially Rebecca. I thought she was portrayed achingly well. The scenes between her and Jordan were profoundly touching and the writing beautiful.
Each Chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character central to the plot and that really worked. Not only because it changes the perspective both emotionally and figuratively but because as each Chapter was fairly short, it built the suspense in one area just enough before switching to another issue.
It’s a tricky call when characterising well-known historical figures, they can become needlessly exaggerated. Here, the ones that we met (Abraham Lincoln, for example), are correctly drawn and do not overshadow the plot or fictional characters. The level of detail and research in events, places and people is outstanding and marvellously complements the story. As an Englishwoman whose only knowledge of the American Civil War comes from Gone with the Wind, I found the historical aspect very interesting.
If I have any niggles, and I’ve struggled to find any, it would be a slight lack of emotion in the first half. Being bounced into late 19th Century cannot be easy in regard to hygiene levels, clothing and cooking and this is not really mentioned in the first months of their new life but this is a very minor point.
The book is the first in the Time Box series. I am not always a fan of series; I think they can occasionally lead to lazy plotting and loose ends. A book should standalone regardless and The Lane Betrayal does with an intelligent and thoughtful ending. But - I will be reading the second instalment as soon as I can.
Absolutely fantastic and highly recommended to all readers; the writing is so good and the novel so well-crafted that I believe it has universal appeal.