Walker’s Key is a work of historical fiction by author Frank Haddleton which slowly unravels its mysterious story line. Set at different points between two time periods, one in the mid-nineteenth century and another just as that century turns, the central plot follows the strained relationship of two brothers in St. Petersburg, Florida. Darby Walker is devastated by the loss of his father, Kenelm, a ship's pilot who died from an apparent suicide at home. The news forces him to connect with his isolated brother, Tulley, and as the facts unwind it becomes horrifyingly likely that Tulley might have murdered Kenelm. What follows is a flashback-style story that attempts to piece together the hows and whys of this daunting prospect.
Considering the tale is adapted from true family history, it’s fantastically exciting and cinematic. Frank Haddleton has really captured an emotional and strained tale of brothers fighting against a mysterious family legacy of sibling rivalry that turns very dark, whilst at the same time painting a beautiful historic image of coastal Florida in all its grim glory. The mystery elements of the writing were well paced and the dialogue felt very realistic, particularly in the times further back in history. As time moves on and I caught back up to the present day, I realized how suspenseful all the backstory truly was, and going into the final scenes with all that knowledge was actually quite frightening! Walker’s Key comes highly recommended as a very atmospheric mystery novel that is sure to please its readers.
Imagine how you would feel if you were researching your genealogy and suddenly, in a very old microfiche file, you found out your great-grandfather died under gruesome circumstances. Furthermore, wouldn’t your curiosity be aroused when you found out that some months later his son, only 37, also died and that his younger brother seemed to have simply disappeared? When Frank Haddleton unearthed this information about his ancestors, using both fact and fiction he wrote the utterly engrossing historical fiction tale, Walker’s Key. What a wonderful tale he has created around the lives of two brothers, Tulley and Darby. As different as chalk and cheese, they both followed in the footsteps of their father, Kenelm, a ship’s captain, in his passion for the sea, but their personalities and sibling rivalry, primarily on Tulley’s side, made for a rocky relationship.
Walker’s Key opens dramatically. Haddleton draws readers into the story quickly when the adult Darby sets out to discover why the lighthouse beacon maintained by Tulley has gone out. Has something happened to his estranged brother? What he eventually finds and how it all happened is kept from us till the last few chapters of the book. Talk about keeping readers hooked! But, in the interim, Haddleton does a stellar job of weaving a tale around the lives of the brothers as they were growing up, and setting the stage for what we ultimately learn.
Walker’s Key provides interesting insights into the social, economic and cultural issues of the latter half of the 19th century when both racial and sexual attitudes were changing. Family and romantic love are explored but the themes of rivalry, along with the timeless battle between good and evil are of primary focus. Toss in some murder, a questionable suicide, duplicity and adultery and you have a great story in which to lose yourself as you stay warm by the fireplace on a snowy winter's night. Enjoy! By the way, if you’d like to know more about how Walker’s Key came to be written, a visit to the author’s website is fascinating.
Walker's Key is a beautiful story with a strong conflict, an unusual plot with a lot of backstory and intricacies that will keep any reader wanting to dig more into the Walker family. The setting is beautifully created with vivid images that readers can easily imagine. For instance, at the beginning, the author describes the city as "exploding along with the rest of Southwest Florida," thanks to the extension of the railway lines and the growth of the citrus and cattle industries. The reader has a clear picture of a tourist destination for wealthy northerners.
The story will appeal to readers who love drama, beautifully crafted dialogues, and great prose. While the plot is intriguing and the conflict strong enough to propel the story forward, it was the author’s deft handling of character that I enjoyed. The characters are real and elaborately developed and I enjoyed seeing them evolve through the conflict. Frank Haddleton has the gift of storytelling and knows how to keep readers engaged throughout the narrative.
Walker's Key by Frank B. Haddleton is a tale of two brothers in a case of mystery, murder, and family. When Darby Walker learns of his father's death, he suspects his brother, Tulley, of the murder. He has no proof, just as he had none when they were children and Tulley tried to drown him. When Tulley's lighthouse goes dark, Darby is determined to find out why. Then readers go back in time to see where it all began as Tulley experiences disappointment at Darby's birth and the rivalry between brothers is explored. The brothers experience a variety of significant events in their lives, from Tulley stealing a paper from Darby to the friend Darby makes who teaches him an important history lesson about his family to Tulley attempting to use a secret to destroy Darby's standing with their father. All this leads up to their father's death and the moment where a face-off between the two could result in one of their deaths.
Frank B. Haddleton dips into the past, exploring history through these two brothers who are vast opposites of each other. The murder mystery is explored right at the start before jumping years into the past to explore the lives and relationship of Darby and Tulley. The structure plays with time as this foray far into the past brings a deeper understanding of the two brothers and how their relationship evolves. Haddleton reveals the murder and a major twist before going back in time, beginning with Darby's birth to set up the rivalry between the brothers and working through significant moments until time catches up to the murder. Haddleton weaves through time, using these moments to reveal the drastic differences between the two and the source of the tension. The mystery is the driving force in present day as Darby works to solve his father's murder, but it's the relationship between the brothers that's at the heart of the story. Their dynamic and how they view each other directly plays into how the events unfold.
As time catches up to the beginning, answers unravel and lead events into an unexpected place. The brothers' rivalry is what causes much of the drama and tension between them as Tulley envies Darby for his good and seemingly perfect nature. Their father is a strong presence throughout with Haddleton's format allowing for a chance to get to know him and to see how the brothers interact with him. Haddleton pulls everything together by the end and weaves various threads together with a brilliant twist. Walker's Key is a murder mystery and a historical read about two brothers whose rivalry pulls you into the story and keeps you turning the pages with themes of family, deception, envy, and acceptance.
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