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On the Bookshelf: Degrees of Kinship

by Gerald Roy

Join me, fellow readers, for a wild adventure which will take us from the sands and bustle of Afghanistan to the wilderness of the Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula.

Degrees of Kinship: The Long Way Back is the continuing story of William (Billy) Wheeler, an army sergeant specializing in undercover missions.

We first see Billy being urgently recalled, cutting short his vacation, when he embarks on a mission to take out the cadre of insurgents in the Middle East. It’s there that he snatches victory from the jaws of an original disaster, but not without furthering his mental issues when the collateral damage involves children.

Upon returning to Canada, where he is celebrated as a hero, he learns that his brother-in-law, Josh, is lost and in trouble in the wilds of Newfoundland. Anxious to do all he can to help, Billy takes a harrowing trip from Toronto to North Sydney to Port Aux Basques. His first obstacle is a blinding snowstorm, in a ill-equipped pick-up truck, since he managed to hitch a ride with some truckers to the Northern Peninsula.

Unbeknownst to all looking for the missing Josh, a pair of hired assassins are trying to kill an American hunter. Compounding Josh’s problems, his main hunting lodge burns down and he has no choice but to take refuge in a shed that has long since been abandoned.

The American hunter witnesses his son being killed and barely escapes, along with his guide. They soon find themselves saved, at least temporarily, by Josh, who then guides them to another abandoned cabin.

Billy, along with Josh’s uncle, Garland, is in hot pursuit of his missing brother-in-law. When the two do locate him and the American hunters, they also come under fire. Garland is wounded while Josh and his companions remained pinned down in the cabin.

In addition to this adventure in good old-fashioned army warfare and suspense, author Jim Bennett gives us a stark comparison between a dysfunctional American family, and the often lauded close-knit family unit typical of Newfoundland outports. On the one side, two siblings decide to have their father killed while he is on his yearly hunting trip in Newfoundland. Conversely, Josh’s entire family, both immediate and extended, comes together to try to find him and make sure he is safe.

Of course, in the end, Billy does manage to bring Josh and his companions back safely, and the matter makes headlines worldwide.

Normally this novel would undoubtedly have merited at least a 4.5 star rating. However, in order to understand the relationships of the different characters, one must have read Bennett’s previous book, Degrees of Guilt, which introduces Billy’s story, which I have already reviewed. In addition, the book ending leads me to believe that a third book will soon follow, and thus doesn’t work as a stand alone novel.

I give Degrees of Kinship a 4 Star rating.

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