Wayne Josephson’s latest novel, The Secret Treaty, has recently been published in book format and on the Kindle. Prior to the book’s publication, Amazon.com released it at a heavy discount on Kindle to allow reviewers an advance look at the book. Although I don’t normally review books, I decided to take a look at it, anyways, simply because of the content.
Josephson is the author of the “Readable Classics” line of books, which retell classics such as The Scarlet Letter, Jayne Eyre, The Odyssey, and the like in modern language. The Secret Treaty is different from all of those; it’s an original story wrapped around historical facts from the early days of the American Revolution. The story is based on the contents of the rumored Bruton Vault, built by Sir Francis Bacon and Thomas Jefferson to safeguard their most prized possessions and writings. Within the vault, supposedly, is a “Secret Treaty” that answers the question of whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation. The Bruton Vault has been guarded and kept secret by Bacon’s and Jefferson’s descendants until a plot to steal the Secret Treaty unfolds. From there, the story becomes a suspenseful and sometimes action-filled blend of history and modern intrigue.
Josephson has done an excellent job of weaving history with mystery and suspense. The book had me fascinated by the historical tidbits about Bacon, Jefferson, and the formation of the United States of America. At the same time, I often found myself at the edge of my seat, reading eagerly to find out what would ultimately happen to the protagonists, Josiah Bacon and Amanda Jefferson, and the Secret Treaty they were struggling so desperately to save.
Unfortunately, as soon as I’d get to the edge of my seat with anticipation, Josephson would break in with a history lesson imparted by way of stilted dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book…but quite a bit of the book’s dialogue just isn’t the way two twenty-somethings would really talk. At one point in the book, Amanda Jefferson tells Josiah, “We had many stimulating conversations about the content of the vault, but he never communicated any information about where in Williamsburg it was located” (location 685-702 on Kindle). Really, Josephson? “Never communicated?” People today rarely, if ever, talk that way…and Josephson, as the father of a teenage girl, should know that.
The dialogue within the book suffers from an attempt to avoid redundant word use. A noble cause, to be sure, but not always recommended for dialogue. After all, people do repeat themselves, often, and use the same figures of speech and phrases over and over again. It’s a natural form of dialogue, and Josephson’s attempt to avoid it is, in my opinion, a mistake.
The book also has some occasional bouts of questionable continuity. For instance, early in the book, a reference is made to a man leaving the ancestral home of the Bacons in Colonial Williamsburg and getting into an automobile. Later in the novel, however, it’s revealed that vehicular traffic isn’t allowed near the home. It distracted me from the story, scratching my head and asking how the man could have left a house and gotten into a vehicle when only foot traffic was allowed. It’s not a big lapse in continuity, but it pulled me out of the story, which is not something you really want to do, as an author.
My last real quarrel with the text is an unfortunate break in tense. The book is written in past tense, but includes historical information about a group known as the Children of God. When Josephson details the Children of God, though, he switches from past tense to present tense. As an English instructor, this bothers me. There’s no reason, to my mind, why the information couldn’t have been provided in past tense. Again, it’s not a big deal…but it was one more thing to pull me out of the story and have me questioning the timeline.
All in all, even with my nitpicking of the dialogue, continuity, and consistency of the text, it’s a good story. It’s got history, intrigue, and a surprising twist near the end. It’s a good read and will most likely teach you something about American history without the pain and tedium of reading a history book.
Or, click The Secret Treaty (Kindle Version) for the Kindle version.