MYSTERY

The Newspaper Widow

Philippine American Literary House. Sept. 2021. 252p. ISBN 9781953716149. pap. $17.95. M
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When her husband dies in 1909, Ines Maceda inherits his newspaper, which is running out of audience and funds; she soon finds that she’s good at both the money side and the reporting side. The paper gets a scoop about the discovery of the body of a priest who had been missing several months, but any pleasure in Ines’s coup is dampened when her son Andres is imprisoned on suspicion of murdering the priest, whose past turns out to be shadier than imagined. What follows is part detective story and part historical fiction, set in the Philippines seven years after the conclusion of the Philippine–American War (1899–1902) that cemented U.S. occupation of the islands. The mystery elements are competently plotted, and the characters appealing, and there’s a charming long-distance romance, with a hint of another yet to come. The book’s signal virtue, though, is its bighearted look at Filipino culture and society in 1909. With 23 books to her name, Brainard (Magdalena) is hardly a novice, but most of her works have appeared out of small presses (including her own Philippine American Literary House), so she might be a new addition to library collections.
VERDICT An old-fashioned novel isn’t a bad thing when it’s as well done as this one about people growing, loving, and rectifying past mistakes.
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