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The Blackbird Papers    by Ian Smith order for
Blackbird Papers
by Ian Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

FBI agent Sterling Bledsoe is slowly coming to terms with his resentment of his older brother Wilson, 'the chosen one of the Bledsoe household', whose successes overshadowed his own childhood. He is shocked by an early morning call from his distraught sister-in-law Kay to say that Wilson has disappeared, and travels to Dartmouth immediately. Professor Wilson Bledsoe is an animal behaviorist, a Nobel prizewinner, who has just been awarded the prestigious Devonshire. He disappears on his way home from a celebration party hosted by Dartmouth College president Wallace Mortimer III.

Sterling pulls strings to take charge of what soons turns into a murder investigation, with overtones of white supremacism. Though White Liberation Army leaders are arrested, Sterling does not buy this theory. He finds the evidence too contrived and wonders what's behind searches of his brother's possessions. Instead, Sterling pursues a lead from a word - 'chogan' - that his brother wrote on his ankle in his dying moments and wonders about Wilson Bledsoe's passion for blackbirds. The latter brings in a Native American connection, and Sterling meets Algonquin locals who called his brother 'Askuwheteau' for 'Always Keeping Watch'.

What was Askuwheteau watching for? As Sterling Bledsoe approaches the truth of a far-reaching conspiracy, there's another murder, and he comes under fire himself. A thrilling chase through New York and a crescendo of action peaks back in the mountains that his brother loved. The Blackbird Papers is an impressive debut thriller, which makes me look forward to Ian Smith's next novel.

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