Pulpwood Press, May 2015
The sub-title of this novel by Michael Lister is Book #7 and A John Jordan Mystery, to which description is added The Atlanta Years, Volume One. It is basically a prequel to the six earlier books in the series, and a fascinating look into what made the protagonist into the man he became, to wit: an ex-cop turned prison chaplain.
From the publisher: When he was twelve years old he came face to face with the man who would be convicted of the Atlanta Child Murders. Six years later, John returned to Atlanta determined to discover who was truly responsible for all the slaughtered innocents. But first he must ascertain whether or not LaMarcus Williams belongs on the infamous list of missing and murdered children. The questions in the case are many, the answers few. Who killed LaMarcus Williams? How was he abducted from his own backyard, while his mom and sister watched him? Is he a victim of the Atlanta Child Murderer that didn’t make the list or is his killer still out there, still operating with impunity?
Opening with a brief Introduction by Michael Connelly, whose own iconic creation, Harry Bosch, assists John and gives him all the impetus he needs to devote the next several years of his life to becoming a cop like Bosch [whose telephone conversation has the background of jazz saxophone that Bosch fans will immediately recognize]. Although Bertram Williams was found guilty of both of the murders with which he was charged, one of them of a 27-year-old and the second a 21-year-old, John is not convinced that he committed all or any of the other murders mostly of young black children who had been victims of the Atlanta Child Murderer, not all of whom were young or black. His commitment is made at age 17; as he is told, “the empathy you feel with the victims, the unquenchable thirst burning inside you for justice . . . for restoring some kind of order . . . the rage you feel at the murderer . . . your obsession with knowing, with uncovering, with finding the truth . . . they are the very things that make you perfect for this kind of work.” And John himself feels “That’s what I’m called to do – – help people damaged by violent crime, salve the suffering of the living while searching for some kind of justice for the dead. As both a minister and an investigator I’d be in a unique position to do both.”
John Jordan’s dedication to the task he has set for himself results in a well-plotted, well-written mystery, the resolution of which is stunning, and one which I for one did not see coming, and the novel is recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2016.
The Good Liar
Harper, February 2016
In the early pages of this debut novel by Nicholas Searle, we met Roy, who, we are told, could “pass for seventy, sixty at a pinch,” but he is a decade older than that. He is meeting a woman on a blind date, each initially giving the other a “nom de guerre,” but they quickly admit the truth and re-introduce themselves to the other. He tells her “I can promise you that was the last time I will lie to you, Betty, everything I say to you from now on will be the truth. Total honesty. I can promise you, Betty. Total honesty.” As the title suggests, however, this in itself is as far from honesty as one can get. Instead, he sees in her little more than a mark, a very vulnerable woman. But once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, she still things it can work, “for the sake of the satisfaction and security she craves.”
The book is replete with flashbacks, each one rather lengthy, harking back decades earlier, first to mid-1998, then early 1963, mid-1946, and finally back to December of 1938 and a time of war.
The writing is beautiful. One early scene in particular I would like to cite as an example:
“Boys of secondary school age are mere blustering rhinos, carried on a wave of hormonal surges of which they are the helpless victims and to which they are utterly oblivious. Their female peers have gained an awareness. And with awareness comes uncertainty, expressed in various ways. The plain and studious invest in their faith that diligence and intelligence may help them navigate the horrors, away from loneliness and failure. The fresh-faced, pretty girls of the class – – pretty vacuous too, most of them – – sense inchoately that their attractiveness may be ephemeral and dependent on the vagaries of their coming physical development.”
Roy turns out to be surprisingly likeable, this reader found, to her surprise. But be assured, please, that this novel is nothing at all what one expects, whatever that may be.
From the publisher: “Roy’s entire life is a masterfully woven web of lies, secrets, and betrayals that will blindside you.” If anything, that understates the case. This is a book that stayed with me long after the cover had been closed and the last page read. And it is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2016.