Don Meyer’s new book The Kittridge Manuscript exceeds expectations. Since I had previously read his award-winning novel The American War, which blended the Civil and Vietnam Wars into one story, I knew I could expect a similar treatment of both wars in this novel. However, the first book was very focused on battle descriptions and depictions of the soldiers’ lives, while The Kittridge Manuscript is more about a mystery concerning Vietnam veterans forty years after their tours of duty and a manuscript dating back to the Civil War one of those former soldiers possesses. Still, I should not have been surprised by the mystery/thriller aspect of The Kittridge Manuscript since Meyer is also the author of the mystery series, The Sheriff Thomas Monason Trilogy.
Far from being a whodunit, The Kittridge Manuscript is more like a John Grisham lawyer thriller, only the lawyer represents a former Vietnam soldier who possesses a Civil War manuscript with a history-changing revelation. Throw in a sexy fifty-eight-year old college professor and you have a historical mystery reminiscent of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, where the characters discover Victorian manuscripts that shed light on the present, and The Da Vinci Code, where old secrets are revealed that are both shocking and fascinating.
The fast-paced story begins when Jeff Morgan, a former Vietnam soldier, receives a call from lawyer Nathan Simon that one of his old army buddies, Bob Kittridge, whom he has barely thought of in years, has died and left him a manuscript. It appears to be a family Civil War story and he requested Jeff finish the research and compiling of the book. But Jeff wasn’t the first choice for this mission. A few other members of his platoon were on the list first, but one has died, one has dementia, and another is in prison. With everyone else eliminated from consideration Jeff is left as the heir or designated compiler of the manuscript.
Jeff reluctantly agrees to take on the task, but he has many questions, including why he was chosen and why he wasn’t first. As he asks questions and tries to interview his army buddies who are still alive, he discovers new information about a day during his tour in Vietnam when something strange happened that left him with many unanswered questions. When someone else who was involved during that event finds out Jeff and Nathan are making inquiries, he is worried it might tarnish his career. Soon, Nathan Simon’s office is broken into and he and his secretary are assaulted while a couple of toughs try to gain access to the manuscript, but fortunately, the manuscript is already in Jeff’s hands.
Meanwhile, in the manuscript, Jeff finds the name of Professor Lori Hathaway, whom his old army buddy had contacted for help, but without success. When Jeff contacts Lori, she wants nothing to do with him, thinking he’s probably just another crazy person looking to find Confederate gold. But once Jeff acquires a bizarre piece of antique furniture, Lori not only becomes interested in the mystery but in Jeff himself.
Will Jeff and Lori be able to solve the mystery behind the manuscript? What does a manuscript with Civil War secrets have to do with Vietnam? Will powerful people with shady pasts get their hands on the manuscript before any of Jeff and his fellow investigators’ questions can be answered? Before it’s all over, people will be drugged, knocked unconscious, have compromising photos taken of them, be killed, experience some fabulous sex, and discover something so surprising that even Abraham Lincoln himself tried to cover it up.
The Kittridge Manuscript is definitely a page-turner, so much so that despite being 355 pages, I read it in a day and a half and couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. Not only was I engrossed by the action and mystery, but I found it refreshing to read a story that has middle-aged people in their fifties and sixties as both the heroes and the lovers. Don Meyer definitely knows how to keep his reader spellbound, and the stunning final revelation is neither disappointing nor unbelievable. I hope Meyer writes more books like this one.
For more information about Don Meyer and The Kittridge Manuscript, visit the author’s website.
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