The Rigel Affair
It’s the beginning of the mid-1900s. The Second World War has started in Europe, but America is not yet (officially) involved. In New Zealand, men are preparing to ship out for combat.
And in the middle of all this, Charlie Kincaid and Mattie Blanc will be thrust together.
It’s a convoluted path they take to reach one another, but as the story is told through their alternating points of view, it was almost a given they would meet. The question, at least at first, is how. Charlie is a runaway from Mississippi, while Mattie is an ambitious young woman in New Zealand. Even with the war and the two of them likely traveling, I couldn’t tell exactly how they would meet.
Lest you think I spent the whole first third of the book consumed by this question, let me set the record straight: this was an idle fancy, something I considered between reading sessions. Most of my attention was taken up by the compelling narratives of the two protagonists. Mattie’s story of overcoming trauma and pursuing a career will speak to any young woman, even as the details strike true to the time period. Charlie’s story will be just as interesting to young men, or to anyone interested in military history. He becomes a diver for the Navy and is stationed at Pearl Harbor just before the day the Japanese attacked. Meanwhile, Roxy, a young woman he met while running away, drifts in and out of his life, a constant reminder that you can never truly leave home behind.
Easily my favorite part of the book was the detail given. It’s obvious the author has great love for this time period, and it shows in every page. One of Charlie’s diving missions will always stick out in my mind. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, divers went down to rescue men trapped in the sinking ships. The taste of oil and water, and the horror of knowing some wouldn’t be saved, was startling and enthralling. I was also struck by the historical accuracy of the characters’ opinions. Some of the characters are bigoted and racist, and while that might leave a bad taste in some readers’ mouths, this was the 1940s. Such opinions were more openly expressed then, especially in such a tense situation as wartime.
The Rigel Affair was the first historical fiction book I read in 2019, and while it almost certainly won’t be the last, it was an excellent start to my reading year. As we draw ever closer to the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the war, I highly recommend reading fiction (and non-fiction) about it to see how much has changed–and how much hasn’t.
|Author||L M Hedrick|
|Page Count||334 pages|
|Publisher||Chez Blanc Publishing|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|
|Category||Mystery, Crime & Thriller|