(Editor’s Note: This review was penned by crime fiction author C.S. DeWildt)
December Boys by Joe Clifford is the follow-up to last year’s Anthony Award-nominated Lamentation. And while December Boys is technically a sequel in the Jay Porter series, it reads much like a standalone novel as Clifford once again takes readers, and protagonist Jay Porter, on a dangerous trip through the small New England haunts that lay in the shadows of Lamentation Mountain.
December Boys picks up a year after the events of Lamentation. Jay Porter is now more or less domesticated: again married to his high school sweetheart, in a steady job, house, etc., but still reeling from the events of Lamentation. Jay does his best to move forward, but his new career as an insurance investigator takes a dire turn when the teenage son of a client is incarcerated indefinitely for a petty offense. The situation dredges up Jay’s demons as his self-destructive compulsion to find answers begins to shatter the small amount of normalcy he’s built for himself. As the past and present collide, Jay soon finds himself in a fight for his life against brutal cops, crooked politicians, and an old nemesis.
December Boys is a wonderful book. The writing is crisp and the dialogue shows off Clifford’s ear for conversation. He does a great job of not only telling a compelling story full of the kind of violence, laughs, suspense, and emotional turns his readers have come to expect, but paints an incredibly rich portrait of Jay’s psychological struggle, revealing a flawed man compelled by an inherent goodness and desire to “do the right thing” despite the personal costs and risks. December Boys is this reviewer’s favorite of the year so far and is highly recommended.
CS DeWildt lives in Tucson, Arizona. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. Kill Em with Kindness, his latest rural noir novel, is available now on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.