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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

Soho Crime, 352 pages, $26.95

Belfast, Ireland, is a creative cauldron for Stuart Neville. Some of the best, sublimely dark Irish noir has come from his pen. “The Final Silence” is the fourth in the Inspector Jack Lennon series. The first in the series, “The Ghosts of Belfast,” was nominated for just about every mystery award around.

As “The Final Silence” begins, Jack is recovering from injuries, has been sidelined as a police detective, and is ostracized by most of his colleagues because of events that occurred at the end of the prior book, “Stolen Souls.” He is also dependent on pain killers, and his romantic relationship is teetering on the brink of dissolution. What more misery could be heaped on one man?

There is no life without suffering, apparently, and Jack needs more to make him a better, stronger person. Or so the theory goes.

When he is not fighting the bureaucracy to get medical benefits should he retire, he is seriously spacing out, thanks to alcohol and the pain killers. Time passes and nothing is accomplished. He even forgets to pick up his beloved daughter from school. It doesn’t seem possible that any good will come from answering a request for help from an old girlfriend, Rea, especially since Jack winds up lying to his current girlfriend.

Rea has found a scrapbook in her recently deceased uncle’s house. It purports to memorialize the murders committed by the author, whom Rea assumes is her uncle. Included in the scrapbook are “souvenirs” of the murders. (Let me say here that for a book dealing with grisly serial murders, Neville doesn’t linger or layer on the graphic details. At any rate, less than one would expect by American standards.) Then the book disappears.

After meeting with Rea and agreeing to look into the crimes to humor her — since she has nothing but an innocuous photograph to show him — Jack is more depressed than ever. Rea is murdered shortly after Jack leaves her in her uncle’s home. Because of an eyewitness’s statement, Jack is suspected of the murder. He must solve all the murders, and then some, while on the run.

Neville takes his hero down as far as he can go. He crafts Jack’s descent masterfully. But it’s not just this storyline that Neville does so well. Jack’s whole life is on the line. Neville shows us how much Jack’s daughter means to him, how dysfunctional his romantic life has been, how empty his life is without police work to sustain him.

DCI Serena Flanagan, who gets Rea’s murder case, doesn’t show up until almost half way through the book, but “The Final Silence” is also her book. Neville makes her very human. She’s competent, incorruptible, and determined to track down Jack. She also has a personal burden that makes focussing on this case very difficult.

Neville balances everything without dropping anything. MBTB star.

No comments:

Post a Comment