Free Reign Mass Market Paperback – Dec 12 2012
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From School Library Journal
YA. This title's setting and plot should attract YAs. The protagonist is a former judge named Ellis Portal; he is also a convicted felon. Isolated from his children and friends, he resides in a shack in a wilderness preserve that runs through the middle of Toronto. One day he finds a hand in his vegetable garden; on it is a ring that the man knows is one of only five in existence. A former law school associate had the rings made for himself and four classmates. This discovery and subsequent investigations yield a reconnection with "normal life," romance, and extreme danger. Aubert has written a good first novel; her premises are plausible; the introduction of environmental issues, homelessness, human isolation, and personal scandal are current and well presented; and her plot is well paced.?Clodagh Lee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Ellis Portal was a compassionate and hardworking Toronto judge before a nervous breakdown landed him in a mental ward, and a scuffle with a woman he loved in law school sent him to prison. Now Portal is homeless and living in a shack near Toronto's River Don. While tilling his garden, he finds a severed hand with a ring from a secret law-school partnership. To solve the mystery of the hand, Portal draws from his past as the son of Italian immigrants and seeks help from friends in both his judicial and homeless lives. The mystery's solution emerges from a thicket of modern medicine and social problems. Aubert's writing in her first mystery is crisp and brisk, and her plot is capably constructed, offering many surprising and satisfying human and natural twists. The people in her story are all well developed and sympathetic, but her most intriguing "character" is the wilderness along the Don, which miraculously thrives in one of the world's busiest cities. John Rowen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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In order to solve the mystery of the ring, Portal needs to go back into the civilized world. When he does so as a vagrant, he is treated without respect. When he goes through great lengths to appear "normal", he is accepted. He first visits another street person, Queenie, who cannot help him but asks him to see how a young woman named Moonstar is doing. Moonstar is a prostitute who spent some time at a hostel called "Second Chances". She is convinced that the well-to-do hostel is responsible for spiriting away several people, including newborn babies of some of the women who reside there. Although this seems implausible to Ellis, he agrees to look into it.
His main connection whohelps in his investigation is a reporter named Aliana who treated him fairly during his worst ordeals. She is kind and helpful. She also serves a useful purpose in the story of being able to tap into information that Ellis needs to investigate Second Chances and the other lawyers with whom he made his pact.
The first two-thirds of the book were thought-provoking as it made the reader consider attitudes toward the unfortunates of society. However, the last third veered off into fantastic events, clichés and unbelievable happy endings for almost everybody. Aubert writes with great sensitivity about the intricacies of life on the streets as well as other issues such as prostitution, homosexuality and the vagaries of the justice system, all of which make this a book worth reading in spite of the overly fortuitous plot resolutions.
The hero of this novel, Ellis Portal, had been a respected judge. However, he had episodes when he went rabid, with the result that he became a stray human, living in a boonie area in a wilderness preserve in Toronto. He is nicer than most stray humans, as he usually eats plants and vegetables, and seldom competes with the likes of us for leftover meat in dumpsters.
One day Portal finds a detached human forepaw in his hidden garden, prompting him to try to solve a murder mystery. While this plot sounds very similar to that in George Dawes Green's "The Caveman's Valentine", "Free Reign" is not a rip-off. Ellis Portal is the most interesting noncanine character we have come across in our reading so far this summer. Although we liked (and highly recommend) "The Caveman's Valentine", we like "Free Reign" even better. Hopefully Portal will make his way back to the boonies for a sequel, and author Rosemary Aubert will give him a boonie dog next time around