Book Review: Speaking of Murder by Jonathan Black

Speaking of Murder Jonathan BlackSpeaking of Murder
Jonathan Black
Agate Digital, September 2014
ISBN: 9781572844902

Here is a novel of terror and creepiness. From the beginning the writing sets a tone that brooks no deviation from its central theme, the stalking and retribution for perceived wrongs. Retribution that results in horrible murder. The writing is strong, the pace relentless and even in the few domestic asides which add a measure of rhythm and texture, there is an air to the pages that is unsettling to say the least.

Hank Fowler has lost his job as an investigative reporter at the Chicago Tribune, a victim of changing attitudes and downsizing. He drinks too much and his cynical attitude toward life isn’t helping land another job, even assuming he can find an acceptable place. Inevitably, his home life, as he crawls more determinedly into self-immolation, falls apart as well and his wife sends him alone out onto the cold and unforgiving Chicago streets. He handles a number of free lance assignments as a travel writer. Somewhat interesting but not self-sustaining long term.

Now he’s landed a job teaching writing at a local college and he’s confronted with a pushy student who wants him to write an introduction for her novel. Rachel Kearns is a forthright, almost abrupt woman who seems to always nail the main point of any conversation almost immediately, is an interesting character, dynamically opposite to Hank Fowler.

As more and more events, small, almost unnoticed events appear, a the frightening outlines of a pattern appears, a weaving of insidious danger and murder that draws an eager Rachel and a reluctant Fowler into the task of identifying what may be a serial killer. In spite of numerous developmental asides, the writing and the sometimes trenchant observations are strong enough to draw this reader along to the smashing climax.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.