Sunday, August 10, 2008

William L Sullivan: The Case of Einstein’s Violin

Guest Review by Kit Bradley
July 31, 2008

Bill Sullivan is a Eugene author, best known for his 100 Hiking Trails In… genre of books. In recent years he has been expanding his repertoire with various travel books, some history, and now fiction. The Case of Einstein’s Violin is his second novel. I’d read his first novel, and it was interesting, but largely because of its Eugene and Oregon historical content. I wasn’t sure I’d like another novel by Sullivan, but he gave me such a convincing pitch (at last December’s Authors and Artists Fair, of course), that I decided to give it a try.

Wow, this is a fun story! It has it all—mystery, travel, adventure, romance, action, and good dialog. And comedy; I laughed a lot. (I wonder if that’s what Sullivan intended.) The story starts in Eugene, Oregon, and then travels to Greece, Italy, and Germany. The plot is interesting and complex enough to keep me fully engaged. Instead of my usual habit of reading in the evening until I get sleepy, this book put me into the opposite mode, read in the evening until enough exciting things have happened that I have to stop to let it settle in (and prolong the enjoyment of reading).

Ana Smyth and her friend Harmony, both young school teachers, are trying to raise enough money for Ana to travel to Europe. Years ago Ana’s great aunt left Ana all the stuff in the attic, and so they decide to sell some of it on eBay, including an old violin case that they think might have belonged to Einstein. This leads to a lot more interest than expected and an accelerated trip to Greece for Ana (and a planned trip to Italy for Harmony). In Greece Ana meets Gilberto, an Italian man sent to help her in a quest, and later meets Peter, a German who seems to have been spying on her since the eBay sale. The adventure leads Ana to Italy, where she doesn’t quite cross paths with Harmony, although Gilberto does. Things get a little exciting, Peter shows up again, and Ana and Peter have to run, this time to Germany. Several unsavory characters have been chasing the two women, but we can’t figure out just what they want…until the very last pages of the book.

I really enjoyed the blending of personalities and travels and mystery as the story unfolded. Sullivan does a great job of introducing unexplainable tidbits throughout the book, and letting them dangle until the last few pages, where everything finally makes sense. My only complaint is that the resolutions were too quick and not as deep as I had expected. I wanted to keep reading for another hundred pages!

I talked with Bill Sullivan recently at another fair (where I bought another book), and it sounds like he had as much fun writing The Case of Einstein’s Violin as I did reading it. He wrote much of the book while traveling with his wife, covering the same paths as described in the book, and writing chapters in his hotel room in the evenings. Oh, the life of a successful author!

I’m very impressed that this is just Sullivan’s second novel. I’m ready for the movie!

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