Book Review: LAMENTATION by Joe Clifford
Available this October from Oceanview Publishing
Lamentation, Joe Clifford’s riveting new novel, is a page-turner in the classic sense. You can’t put it down. You need to know what comes next.
At the heart of this particular bundle of darkness is an ordinary guy, Jay Porter, trying to get along. He salvages anything of value from empty and abandoned homes, is out of work for long stretches of time, is estranged from ex-girlfriend, Jenny, the love of his life and mother of his young son, Aiden. The bane of Jay’s life is his older brother, Chris. To say that Chris is a loser is an understatement. Chris has a drug problem – and has had for years. He can’t stay clean for long, can’t do much of anything useful. He shows up needing money, a place for the night, and then is gone, back in to the seamy world he chose to live in. Suspicion was cast on Chris years before, when their parents were killed in a car accident. There’s talk of mechanical tampering – a deliberate sabotage of the vehicle.
Chris again becomes the focus of an investigation, when his partner in a computer salvage business turns up dead. This is just the beginning of a very thorny plot that weaves a number of unsavory elements together in Ashton, a small New Hampshire town. Jay overcomes his deep frustration with Chris and attempts to help him out. Layer by layer, Clifford peels back the crime until we arrive at a place we really didn’t expect to be and wish we could escape from in a hurry. What we thought was true, isn’t. What we couldn’t imagine being the case turns out to be true.
Yet Clifford doesn’t tie everything up in one neat package. One question goes unanswered, leaving the reader to wonder and think about the novel long after the last page. As a writer myself, I think this is a great device for keeping the story alive. Another thing I appreciate, again as a writer, is that Clifford’s characters are real people, with levels of complexity, not just types, as is the case with other crime novels I’ve read.
Lastly, on a personal note, as someone who grew up in upstate New York, Clifford’s rendition of snow, cold, and darkness rang wonderfully true for me, and make me glad that I now live in a much milder climate.
Lamentation is truly a fine read.