Cathy Berry’s Novel
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The county’s first murder of the year happened at the tail-end of 1922. When Deputy Frank Rodrigues entered the Montecito cottage, he found Death’s calling card, Terror, waiting just inside the door.
In the historical novel, “Reckoned by the Light of Stars,” readers are introduced to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Rodrigues, on his new worst day ever.
Frank learns that Bianca Fairchild has been brutally murdered, leaving her young son, Lucky, to face life without her. This murder is deeply personal: Bianca was Frank’s goddaughter; her son, Lucky, as precious to him as a grandson.
Though Frank tried for years to counsel and encourage Bianca toward responsibility and restraint, she resisted. She belonged, more and more, to the world of speakeasies, clandestine parties, and secrets he could not begin to decipher.
Even before Bianca’s death, Frank struggled with accepting the growing presence of the modern world in this once-remote region.
The cost of war is only known in its aftermath, and since the ending of the Great War, the country became subject to a new breed of zealot, fond of provoking violence by way of politics, or industry, or the society pages, to meet their ends. Legislative cowards bankrupted truth. Prohibition mocked, divided, inflamed. Elitists fomented fascism. Technology, that eternal double-edged sword, developed apace. Worst of all, time seemed to accelerate past trend after trend after trend until the world had little resemblance to the one in which he had been so at home only a few years earlier.
Only after Bianca’s death did Frank learn the truth about her life: The truth was Bianca traded in deadly secrets. The truth was, she ran wild. The truth was Bianca Fairchild never had a chance.
Bianca’s death brings Frank face-to-face with his own contradictions and hidden truths, those he will have to master if he has any hope of recovering his fractured self, and finding justice for Bianca, her son, and their community.
Because of his close connection to Bianca and her family, Frank is quickly barred from the official murder investigation. He launches his own inquiry, sub rosa. Though bureaucracy, outside agencies, secret keepers – even Hollywood – threaten to derail his efforts, Frank is relentless in his pursuit of the truth.
When his sanity wavers in light of all that was lost and compounding all the losses before it, Frank relies on the steady and edifying presence of his truest friends, his own experience and history, and the comfort he finds in his horses and cat, the familiar and beloved sea and valleys, the hills and fields, the birds and creatures he has lived among his whole life.
Reckoned by the Light of Stars, is a historical novel that mirrors many of the struggles that continue to plague our nation today, 100 years later.
Many have become familiar with Santa Barbara County, California, thanks to its wealthy and famous residents, its natural beauty, its architecture, and celebrations.
The extraordinary true history of Santa Barbara County, California, belongs, also, to the Chumash, the First Nation people, and to the small, multi-cultural communities of fisherfolk and farmers, ranchers and shopkeepers, teachers and nurses and horticulturists, to those who built homes, highways, and railroads, for the benefit of all.
Despite natural and societal constraints, their stories, their lives and spirits were and are luminous, they glow even now, in the modern day through stories and artifacts —and through their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who live here still.