Crime-On-Crime Review Series #1: Lamentation, by Joe Clifford

Lamentation-screen-res-220x331A NOTE FROM THE EDITORS: The Crime-On-Crime Review Series originated on Crime Syndicate founder Michael Pool’s personal blog. We’ve decided to take over the series here on our website, and as part of that process we’re publishing the first five entries in the series, one per day the rest of this week, leading up to a brand new review on Monday, November 9, 2015. The review below was originally published on August 18, 2015, thus some of the references to upcoming events may feel a touch outdated, though the overall review is sound. FULL POST BELOW:

In my new bi-monthly Crime-On-Crime Review Series, I share and review books I’ve recently read that I enjoyed. With so much noise out on the market, it can be tough for the casual reader to find some of the amazing work that’s out there in the ether. As a writer, it goes without saying that I read A TON, and thus I’m happy to take some time here on my blog each month to support some of the incredible writers I come across.

One such writer is Joe Clifford. I recently read his 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 New Hampshire town in the dead of winter. The town, called Ashton, sits at the base of Lamentation Mountain, a place that holds dark memories for Jay, who is barely keeping himself, let alone his quasi-estranged ex-girlfriend and child, 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, leaving Jay to take up his trail. Jay’s search for Chris pulls him into a side of Ashton he’s never seen before, with danger lurking 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 throughout.

But what really won me over about this book are the themes of love, loyalty, brotherhood, and memory that come up throughout it, 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, and 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. You can pick it up on Amazon here. Find Joe Clifford online at www.joeclifford.com. Also, check out Joe’s editorial skills and tastes at Out of the Gutter (which will be featuring my story “Franklin and the Finger” soon!). Cheers!

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