Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman (review)
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Reviewed by
Landman, Tanya Hell and High Water. Candlewick, 2017[320p]
ISBN 978-0-7636-8875-2 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7–10

Caleb Chappell loves the nomadic life he lives with his puppeteer father, Joseph, a talented showman who is witty yet tactful in defending Caleb from rude remarks about his dark skin. When Pa is wrongly accused of theft and sentenced to death, a local bishop intercedes and Pa’s hanging is commuted to transportation to an English colony in America. Before he goes, Pa urges Caleb to seek out Anne Avery, Pa’s sister and maid at Sir Robert Fairbrother’s stately manor. When Caleb finds her, however, she’s not a servant to Sir Robert but a fisherman’s wife caring for a baby daughter and a teenaged stepdaughter, Letty. They take Caleb in and adjust to the new family configuration, until Caleb finds his father’s body washed up on shore (identified by a signet ring too small to be removed) and discovers that Sir Robert is putting pressure on the dependents on his estate to deny the dead man’s identity. Something illegal is definitely afoot, and Caleb and Letty are determined to get to the bottom of it. This excellent melding of historical fiction and adventure/thriller pays the meticulous attention to period and character detail that pleases fans of the former while delivering the grave digging, shipwrecks, and hairsbreadth escapes that entertain the latter. Presented in a narrative tone that subtly quotes—not apes— adventure tales from a bygone period, this tale of eighteenth-century upper-crust crime is bound to please. [End Page 458]

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