As a writer, it goes without saying that I read A TON.
I recently read Joe Clifford’s new novel, Lamentation, which happens to be on the ballot for an Anthony Award at this year’s Bouchercon. I didn’t get twenty pages into the book before the reasons for that became clear.
The first person voice is strong and the dialog cracks. Protagonist Jay Porter takes the reader into his world without having to preach to get it done. He feels like a natural, seamless guide the whole way through.
And what a bleak world it is. The story takes place amid the backdrop of a frigid, economically-depressed Ashton, New Hampshire in the dead of winter. Ashton sits at the base of Lamentation Mountain, a place that holds dark memories for Jay. Jay is barely keeping himself, let alone his estranged ex-girlfriend and son Aiden, afloat. Not to mention he’s constantly baling his drug addict older brother Chris out of trouble.
But this time Chris has stirred up some powerful trouble and then up and disappeared. Jay’s search for Chris pulls him into a side of Ashton he’s never seen before. Danger lurks around every corner. I won’t give away much more other than to say it’s a thrilling book with a solid ending and excellent pacing.
Endearing themes of love, loyalty, brotherhood, and memory come up throughout the book, despite what is often dark subject matter. One of the things I like most in a good noir mystery is some light in the darkness, a sense that the protagonist still has something worth struggling for. This book has that in spades. Jay is an unwilling detective in an unenviable situation, and that struggle feels real throughout the book.
It’s obvious that Clifford really cares about his characters, and it makes the reader care about them too. I think I read the last hundred pages of Lamentation in one sitting, which says all you need to know about how hard the plot bangs, too. I really enjoyed it, and I think you’ll enjoy it too.