Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
With the propulsive tail-wind of critical word-of-mouth from the US, this throwback to the criminally twisted romantic noir of James M Cain, Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith finally arrives in the UK.
It’s a slim book that appears weightier than its page count due to a provocative and disturbing story striated with the wreckage of damaged characters, and their intertwined lives. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel, [and a literary thriller to boot] due to the assured narrative skills of the author who you takes you firmly by the hand, exploring the fissures of the past, and where nothing is what is seems. It draws the reader in like a rope, twisting and creaking under the strain of the central premise, the danger of lost love and its consequences for someone blinded by that love.
The unremarkable Bostonian George Foss finds himself drifting through life, directionless. His world-view is shattered when his first love, the mysterious Liana Dector [or is she Jane Byrne or someone else?] reappears in his life. Mysterious; because his fellow University student and lover Liana had committed suicide decades earlier in circumstances that Foss never comprehended. When he escaped to Florida, Liana’s home, he discovered that the girl who committed suicide was not in fact the girl he loved. The mystery deepens when the ‘real’ Liana reappears [twenty years later] and asks for George’s help, as there are dangerous people on her trail, led by an enforcer named Donnie Jenks. George soon finds himself in peril, as well as the people he knows such as his friend, and on-off lover Irene. It seems that “Liana / Jane” needs George’s help to stop Donnie Jenks and his boss, her former lover Gerald MacLean from exacting retribution, for a theft that may or may not have occurred.
The novel then takes you on a ride, with the theme of how lost love and a broken heart can shape your world-view, perhaps not for the better, and that love can be manipulative and dangerous when it is blind to the consequences of where it leads. George Foss is that man, clinging to the wreckage of his first and perhaps only love. This tale requires a seat-belt as there is little safety when the ride commences, and its dénouement leads one to pause and ponder the significance of the events that have unfolded, and like great novels it allows us to consider the reality of our own loves and the lives of those we have interacted with, and what became of them when they left our presence.
It will be of little surprise to hear that Hollywood has snapped up a movie option, as the narrative is written in a Spartan and terse style, that resembles a detailed screenplay, but one that the readers has to provide the camera directions, and as for lighting? There is no need, as it is noir in the literal sense. An astonishing debut from a writer that even at this early stage, is one worth marking for the future