Book Review: The Paper Route

The Paper Route

By Jacqueline Cayer Nelson McDonald

Reviewed by Richard Howe

When asked to list my favorite activities, reading would be near the top. Because history would also be high on that list, most of the books I read are nonfiction. But every so often I pick up a work of fiction and am reminded why that category is so popular. That happened again when I read the recently published, set-in-Lowell murder mystery called The Paper Route by Jacqueline Cayer Nelson McDonald.

Set in Centralville in the early 1960s, the book follows the adventures of Jackie, a precocious yet rough-around-the-edges grammar school student who has the biggest paper route in Lowell and comes from a sweet, loving family that is touched by tragedy. Jackie has an intense curiosity about people and circumstances that tends to put her in harm’s way but also brings her into contact with helpful allies like police detective Dennis Dahm, who is also a central character in the book. (And with the fictional Dahm also married to Jack Kerouac’s sister, the famous Lowell writer makes a couple of more-than-cameo appearances).

Paper Route oozes Lowell from the names of streets, characters, and places to the way people dress, talk and behave. The authenticity makes it clear that the author emerged from the city (which she did) and didn’t just immerse herself in research from the outside.

Like any good mystery, Paper Route features strong characters, a complex plot, moments of tension and misdirection while also providing an ethnographic account of life in Lowell’s French-Canadian community of 50 years ago. Best of all, the book’s ending invites a sequel. I can’t wait for that.

The Paper Route is available in paperback or on Kindle.

12 Responses to Book Review: The Paper Route

  1. Jacqui McDonald says:

    Thank you for your excellent review and for being such a devoted and effective Lowell booster. Although I left Lowell in 1984 for Florida and have since lived in NY and AZ,Lowell inspires me still.

    Thank you again, Dick. I hope to return to Lowell and get to meet you in the fall.

    All the best,
    Jacqueline Cayer Nelson McDonald, Author

  2. Gerald Aubin says:

    My long lost 3rd cousin, I can’t wait to get this book,and to get in touch with you. You are a piece of my missing puzzle.

  3. Cindy Rousseau Greenwood says:

    Looking forward to reading your book. You were a friend of my sister Candy Rousseau. We lived on Cumberland Road a block away from you.

  4. Virginia Lynch says:

    I read and enjoyed the book. I was born in the Centerville section of Lowell in 1950. I loved romping through the neighborhood with your character, Jackie. The cover held particular interest for me. A few years after the Sun Building was renovated into Senior Housing in 1979, I became the Property Manager. I spent 14 years there housing senior citizens. How did you settle on that picture for the cover? I love it.

  5. Rosemary Vieira says:

    I could not agree more. I read the book in one day!! I could not pull myself away from the story!! There HAS to be a sequel! Can’t wait!!

  6. Archie Bugler says:

    Great Title myself and brother George had Paper Routes in Centerville

  7. Karen Briere says:

    My friend is in a book club and she told me about the book. They read it and were excited to have a virtual visit with the author. I ordered it on my kindle and I just started to read it. Having lived in the Centraville section most of my life, I’m very familiar with the predominantly French community, the streets mentioned and with the Cameo Diner(my brother worked there in his teens).The author’s name is also familiar to me. Anyway, so far, I am enjoying the book. Its an easy and enjoyable read so far.

  8. Mike McCaffrey says:

    I just finished reading this excellent novel. I ordered it when I saw this page on Facebook, went immediately to Amazon and got it via Kindle Ebooks. I was in the process of reading a three volume set regarding Japan’s buildup/entry into/demise in WWII, but stopped dead in the midst of that, captured by story weaved by the author of THE PAPER ROUTE. Ms. McDonald: you’ve acquired a new devote’!

    I was born/grew up in Lowell, btw …

  9. Jacqueline Cayer Nelson McDonald says:

    Thank you all so much for your generous comments. I love my readers and I’m so pleased that you enjoyed my book.

    Special thanks to Dick Howe. The exposure you gave my book helped me re-connect with people from my childhood.

    Gratefully yours, Jacqui McDonald

  10. Elaine Dietrich says:

    Just finished this excellent novel. It was so well written & totally had me not wanting to put it down. Now I want more, and hopefully you have started a sequel.