Robert Parrish’s childhood obsession with series books like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift inspired him to become an author. Just as his debut novel becomes a bestseller, his relationship with his girlfriend, Rebecca, begins to fall apart. Robert realizes he must confront his secret demons by fulfilling a youthful promise to solve a mystery surrounding his favorite series—the Tremendous Trio.
Guided by twelve tattered books and an unidentified but tantalizing fragment of a story, Robert journeys into the history of the books that changed his life, hoping they can help him once again. His odyssey takes him to 1906 Manhattan, a time of steamboats, boot blacks, and Fifth Avenue mansions, but every discovery he makes only leads to more questions.
Robert’s quest intertwines with the stories of three young people trying to define their places in the world at the dawn of a new and exciting century. Magda, Gene, and Tom not only write the children’s books that Robert will one day love, together they explore the vibrant city on their doorstep, from the Polo Grounds to Coney Island’s Dreamland, drawing the reader into the Gilded Age as their own friendships deepen.
The connections between the authors, their creations, and Robert’s redemptive journey make for a beautifully crafted novel that is an ode to the children’s series books of our past, to New York City, and above all, to the power of love and friendship.
Lovett (The Lost Book of the Grail) underwhelms in this story of a man's obsession with a series of children's books. As a young boy, novelist Robert Parrish was entranced by the Tremendous Trio, featuring Daring Dan Dawson, a circus daredevil; Alice Gold, Girl Inventor; and Frank Fairfax, Cub Reporter. The action-packed yarns fomented his ambition to become a writer, though during his studies at an MFA program, he kept his inspiration a secret, and still feels shame over his continued love for the books. His curiosity is piqued by the missing pages from what was billed as the last adventure of the Tremendous Trio, and soon he embarks on a quest through the city's libraries for the rest of the manuscript, which also involves seeking the truth about the creators of Dawson, Gold, and Fairfax. Lovett alternates Parrish's efforts with flashbacks about the lives of the writers, which include brushes with death in 1904 when the General Slocum steamboat caught fire and sank in New York City, and a 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Parrish's obsession creates tension with his girlfriend, leading to a final resolution that features the revelation of a clich d secret from Parrish's teenage years. Uninspired prose and convoluted plotting are another minus. It's an ambitious novel, but not a successful one.