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LocalLit book review: 'The Honduran Opal' by Bill Telfer

This mystery book is written in the style reminiscent of old-fashioned detective yarns.
This mystery book is written in the style reminiscent of old-fashioned detective yarns.

A couple weeks ago, freelance writer Karen Foxglove of New Jersey sent emailed her review of "The Honduran Opal" by Joliet-area Bill Telfer

"The Honduran Opal is a new mystery novel by Joliet-area writer Bill Telfer. The review was well-written and insightful and after some back and forth correspondence with Foxglove, decided to share it with newsletter subscribers.

Why? Well, because I had not read the book but the genre is one I felt readers would like. And since the purpose of this newsletter is to help local readers find locally authored books, I felt this review furthered that purpose.

First the book's Amazon description and then the review.

"Bobber Maxwell is a man without focus. Home from WWII, the prizefighter finds himself banned from the boxing ring. He spends his days listening to ball games on the radio down at Tim's Tap -- and fooling around with a neighbor lady. But when Erin O'Kief, a childhood friend, goes missing, something in Bobber comes alive. And he takes his boxing skills to the darkest streets of Chicago."

Now here is Foxgloves's reaction to the book:

Written in the style of the old-fashioned dime detective yarns, Telfer’s narrative voice is refreshingly unique and the best one I’ve read in years. This is probably due to his anti-hero Bobber Maxwell, a marvelous literary creation.

When we first meet Bobber it is difficult to respect him and yet nearly impossible not to like him. The book, like so many good detective stories, is written in the First Person Narrative.

So we get to know Bobber through his eyes and with his voice. And he is a funny, funny guy.

When describing to his mother an automobile he left “double-parked in Berlin” during the war, he tells her not to worry because “the Burgermeister waived that fine long ago.”  The otherwise serious events are peppered with such wackiness which makes the reading experience even more enjoyable.

And the aforementioned mother of Bobber, Henrietta Maxwell, is indeed a character, and you will rarely find such a loveably dangerous matriarch. In fact, Telfer’s female characters are all well-drawn: the story may be set in 1946, but none of his women suffer from the sexist prejudices of the era, and, yet, they live and breathe believably in their time period.

Amongst them we meet, most chillingly, one of fiction’s most insidious villainesses. And during the plot, Bobber attempts to aid the O’Kief family, and you won’t find a more likeably dogged heroine than one Peggy O’Kief (one of those characters you hope will keep turning up, and she doesn’t disappoint).

Set in various areas of postwar Chicago, this novel is one of those time machines, filled with believable sensory stimuli that evoke another era. The cigarette smoke of Tim’s Tap assaults your eyes while the cold beer invades your nose and taste buds – and the buzz of the ball game on the radio fills your ears.

Cully’s Gym is a wonderland of witch hazel and sweat. And, as I implied, every scene makes you feel like you just stepped off that time machine into a place lost forever.

"The Honduran Opal" is a great story, ultimately, and an origin novel for Telfer’s prizefighter character Bobber (who has, till now, existed only in the obscure pages of magazine short fiction).

May these denizens of Chicago’s Canaryville neighborhood see many more book-length adventures.

Know more about LocalLit

Each week LocalLit will deliver an original short and family-friendly story (or a book review) by a local author to the newsletter's subscribers. Authors with a connection to our readership area may submit.  Submission does not guarantee acceptance.

To submit and for more information, contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122

To sign up for the free LocalLit newsletter and read the book review on Tuesday,

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