Michael Malone is a prolific writer who has won awards ranging from an Emmy to an Edgar; he favors robust casts of characters and sprawling, intricate plots--and he continues in that vein with his 10th novel, The Four Corners of the Sky.

Annie Peregrine's father Jack drops her off with his sister Sam on Annie's seventh birthday, gives her his airplane, a Piper Warrior named King of the Sky, and then disappears. Now, on her 26th birthday, Annie travels from Annapolis, where she's an ace flyer and instructor, to Emerald, North Carolina, where Sam still lives with Clark Goode, her longtime friend and housemate. Sam and Clark have raised Annie like a daughter, with only the rare, cryptic phone call or postcard from Jack over the years.

Out of the blue, Jack calls on Annie's birthday, tells her he's "dying in St. Louis," and pleads with her to fly the King of the Sky there to meet him. Annie does just that--setting in motion a bizarre cat-and-mouse chase involving an intriguing cast of characters including con-men, the Mafia, a Cuban refugee who effortlessly spouts Shakespeare, various FBI operatives and Annie's soon-to-be-ex-husband, a pilot with a tendency toward adultery.

As Annie, Sam and Clark have suspected all along, Jack is more than just a "capricious" dad. He's been charged with 11 felonies, and has three outstanding warrants, the latest for absconding with a hugely valuable gold- and jewel-encrusted statue smuggled out of Cuba. But despite his shortcomings, Jack is her father, and Annie will do whatever she can to keep him out of jail. She follows him from St. Louis (where he eludes some Mafia thugs by exiting through his hotel bathroom vent) to Miami (where he hides from the FBI in the Golden Day rest home) to Key West (where Annie finally discovers the identity of her mother).

Each of Malone's characters is larger than life, and someone readers would love to encounter in the real world. Intricate relationships reveal themselves as Malone offers sporadic glimpses into the past to illuminate Annie's murky background. Malone's latest brims with humor and pathos--it's an engaging, multifaceted saga touting the power of love and family to overcome all, even a lifetime of apparent neglect.

Deborah Donovan writes from La Veta, Colorado.

 

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