Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Diamond Dogs, by Alan Watt, c2000 ($19.99)

This is the sort of book I can't read very often. It's the sort of story that goes from bleak to bleaker, then sinks lower than you think it has a right to sink. Along the way, there's a realization that the machinery that holds us all together is rather fragile, and that we humans aren't really meant to keep secrets, because we fear that if we were to release our secrets, then all would turn to dust.

Neil Garvin is a high school quarterback. He was named for Neil Diamond. He is a bully. His father is the sheriff in a small town near Las Vegas. His father, Chester, has a violent temper. Chester loves Neil Diamond and Midori liqueur. Neil's mother deserted his family when he was very young. Into this troubled background, a little more rain must fall. Neil accidentally kills another boy. He and his father silently conspire to hide the boy's death, which becomes increasingly difficult to do when the boy's uncle, an FBI agent, enters the picture.

More than a story about a death and its discovery, it's about Neil and his father and their strained relationship. How did they get to this point in their lives, in which football and, for his father, Neil Diamond are the only bright spots? What does each see flickering at the periphery of his life that needs to be addressed? Everyone is a victim in this story, but not every victim knows his story. Diamond Dogs is also about testing love and loyalty.

Alan Watt wrote this book from the perspective of Neil. Neil's voice seems so young, lost, and true. He goes through the motions to make each day bearable, because there is pain deep inside with which he cannot deal. Watt unrelentingly uncovers everyone's secrets and does a good job building up the tension, even though I often felt it was a short story on steroids.

It's a coming-of-age story. So, Neil, welcome to the bleak.

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