Thursday, August 06, 2009

Fresh Kills - Bill Loehfelm

Fresh Kills
Bill Loehfelm
Berkley Prime Crime


This novel is part mystery, and part character study. That’s not a bad thing; just something the reader should know. The story begins when John Sanders, Jr. gets the news that his father is dead. Not just dead, but murdered; and not just murdered, but shot, execution-style. The grown son’s first reaction is that whoever killed the old man saved him the trouble of doing it himself. The old man was a first-rate abuser and put his wife and family through a particular kind of hell. John’s sister, Julia, managed to escape almost all of the physical abuse, but growing up in that kind of household still shapes a person’s character.

In Julia’s case, it’s made her kind and compassionate and eager to forgive and forget. Her brother isn’t nearly so forgiving. He loses himself in alcohol, women, and brawls. At the outset, he doesn’t seem to realize just how much he’s grown up to be his father’s son. It’s with no small amount of surprise that he realizes that he wants to find out who killed his father. Julia would much rather put everything in the hands of the police and the past. The siblings are back in their parents’ home due to the circumstances, but they find themselves unable to settle into a grownup dynamic without parents present. (Their mother died some years before.)

While the underpinning of the novel is the son’s search for the killer of his father, the real story here is how adults are shaped and molded by their childhood, their parents, and, finally, by their own choices. The son tells the story in first person, and he can be quite darkly witty. It’s that spark in him that makes it so painful to watching him wander from bar to bar and from fight to fight, all while telling himself that he’s doing it all to find a murderer and give his sister peace. As a mystery, this novel weighs much more heavily on the side of am adult son’s personal journey, but it finds its way in the end, as we all must.

Rating: 8
July 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-22874-6 (trade paperback)


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