Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lucius the Club by Michael Allen (A+)

Lucius the ClubA worthy addition to a mystery/crime aficionado's collection.

Available at: Amazon

First impression: cover could use some work.

The first thing that strikes me as I read is the quality of the editing and the writing. This is high-grade stuff, folks. I mean, the editing alone raises the book to B level, and that's just before I get involved with the story. Why? Editing makes the story come to the surface; it makes the voice of the author speak in your ear, pulling you along. Punctuation errors and other editing problems submerge the story under a layer of haze, forcing the reader to strain and go back and forth in search of the narrative threads—and that's just wrong. There's none of that here.

The story opens in the middle of action: a 19 year old Oxford freshman's mother comes to him with a problem—she's being blackmailed. The son, college boy, decides that he will kill the blackmailer. The question that suggests itself is—what will happen to these characters? Good writing, interesting premise, and well-developed characters—the book is hard to put down. In fact, it almost reads itself. I found myself reading it in one sitting.

The writing is very impressive. Consider, for example, the bit below:

Naughty, dirty, dangerous Soho. It was the perfect place for us, really, because as Mama never ceased to point out, we were not a respectable family. We came from a line of thieves, brothel-keepers and publicans.

The suspense is clearly set up—how will a college boy deal with the blackmailer? Will he carry out the murder? How? Will he get away? These questions dangle over the action of this short but masterfully written novel. Tension mounts as the mother plans out the hit. And the resolution? Well, you'll have to read the novel yourself to find that. All I can tell you here is that it's unexpected, and in a good way. The final revelation of who Lucius really killed and why is shocking, illuminating the mother and her desire to make Lucius into a man who would be respected.

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