The Bootlegger's Secret
Publisher Outskirts Press
It's the summer of 1941 in Middleton, Minnesota. Eleven-year-olds Mark Penn and Swede Larson have built a treehouse along the river. School is out and the boys are looking forward to the arrival of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Fourth of July parade, and the baseball season of the Middleton Aces. Mark is the team's batboy and Swede a ball shagger.
One day while swimming in the river, they spot the hood ornament of a submerged 1931 Pierce-Arrow. Swede swims down, inside the car and finds an inlaid-gold cigarette case containing a music box, Turkish filter-tips and the photograph of a beautiful woman. Later, police recover the corpse of the car's owner, Eddie Knowland, local bootlegging kingpin and member of Al Capone's Chicago gang. Knowland and his car have been missing for eight years.
The cigarette case has a secret compartment containing Knowland's business records. Treasury agents want the records to prosecute corrupt officials bribed by Knowland. Chicago gangsters want the records for blackmail.
When the cigarette case disappears, Mark and Swede are caught in a deadly squeeze between the T-men and the gangsters. They are not even safe at home or in their tree house. Summer vacation becomes a nightmare of shadows and ghosts.
The story takes place in Middleton Mn. in the summer of 1941. You have two eleven yr old boys, Mark Penn, whose dad was the local insurance agent and a respected member of the community, and Howard "Swede" Lawson whose family was sort of looked down on. Everyone thought Mark shouldn't hang around Swede but they were best friends.They had even built a secret tree house down by the river where they could hang out.
One day while swimming they see a hood ornament so Swede dives down to take a look inside the car and finds a gold-inlaid cigarette case with the initials EK engraved on it. They boys take the case back to their tree house and find out that it has a few things inside. They decide to keep it a secret.
Soon though the police pull the submerged car from the river and discover a corpse inside, everyone assumes it Eddie Knowland, a local bootlegger that had ties to the mob who had been missing for eight yrs.
Soon there are t-men (treasury men) and a couple of mob hit men hanging out in town and they all want one thing they want the cigarette case and somehow they know the boys have it.
This is a very fast paced story full of mystery, murder and intrigue that keeps you turning the page and the ending was something even I didn't guess.
This story gives us a glimpse of life during an era that was much simpler, where kids had fun without TVs and other gadgets. I would love to read more about Mark and Swede. I hope the author turns this into a series because I feel like these two boys have much more to tell us. I would give this book a solid five and even though its geared for teens I think readers of all ages would enjoy it.
Even though the author Michael Springer (thanks) provided me a copy of this book for review in no way does it alter my opinion of this book.