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Black Duck


Black Duck

David approaches Ruben Hart in hopes of collecting information to write a newspaper article. Rumor has it that Mr. Hart had been involved in the illegal smuggling of alcohol during the Prohibition. Mr. Hart denies it and sends him on his way. But David is desperate for a story, so he does a bit of research at the library. He learns that besides the big time business of the mob, some of the smuggling occurred small scale, like poor farmers looking for some extra money during those lean times. He also finds a boat named the Black Duck mentioned in some old newspaper clippings.

David returns to Mr. Hart and tries again. This time Mr. Hart opens up a bit, agreeing to some of the info David repeats from his research. But when David mentions the Black Duck, Mr. Hart clams up and ushers him out the door. David can feel a story just begging to be told, but how can he get at the truth? A few days later, Mr. Hart calls him up; he's ready to tell his story.

Ruben and his best buddy Jeddy often comb the beaches of their New England home looking for lost lobster traps. If they can return them to the owners, they often get a bit of money for their troubles. In 1929, extra money for teenagers is a bit scarce.  But this time, they find more than just lobster traps --- they uncover a body! Ruben and Jeddy search the dead man's pockets for identification, but find only a pipe and tobacco pouch...and a bullet hole in his neck. They rush home to tell Jeddy's father, the town sheriff, but by the time they get back to the beach, the body has disappeared.

Warned to keep quiet, Ruben and Jeddy wonder if the body is connected to the alcohol smuggling occurring in the area. Everybody is aware of it, and almost everyone knows someone involved. When jobs are so hard to come by, who can blame a person for trying to put food on the table, even if it is against the law? Jeddy can, that's for sure. He completely backs up the law and his father as the sheriff. But Ruben finds himself involved, whether he likes it or not. When Ruben offhandedly stuffs that pipe and tobacco pouch in his pocket, he accidentally digs himself into the middle of a smuggling operation. And more than one group of people is desperate and willing to do anything to get at him!

Pages filled with mystery, suspense, danger and action can be difficult to put down, and BLACK DUCK definitely falls into this category. The fascinating and in-depth characters surging throughout the book are especially impressive, as are the emotional and moral struggles the characters must go through. Janet Taylor Lisle truly has done an amazing job. She based the book on a real smuggling boat called the Black Duck, and then spun such a golden web of a story that readers will not want it to end.


Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on October 18, 2011

Black Duck
by Janet Taylor Lisle

  • Publication Date: May 18, 2006
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel
  • ISBN-10: 0399239634
  • ISBN-13: 9780399239632