A BOOK REVIEW
BY ALEX GRANT.
BLUE EDGE OF MIDNIGHT"
Author/ Jonathon King / Onyx New American Library / Soft
CAN. April 2003
A nominee for an Edgar Award 2003 as Best First Novel.
'Writer King gives the story a powerful sense of urgency'
King bravely takes on very familiar territory The Florida Everglades
and their rambunctious denizens : mostly outlaws descended from C18th
pioneers who detest the encroachments of progress upon their once virgin
swampland paradise - in his debut mystery THE BLUE EDGE OF MIDNIGHT.
A milieu that has seen many a mystery novel sink without a trace weighed
down by naturalistic detail and disdain for hard-core hicks stuck out
in the sticks.
Yet he manages to skirt around almost every cliché of this rural
redneck type of gator-ridden and snake-infested yarn. His hero
is a reclusive former cop from Philadelphia, umder-achiever and self-defeatist
Max Freeman, who is atoning in the wilderness after his accidental slaying
of a twelve-year old back on his beat. Freeman is also recovering from
an unfaithful wife, and yet he cannot resist still playing amateur detective
after a young girls dehydrated corpse is washed up on his doorstep.
She is one of a handful of children abducted and left to perish in his
vicinity. The State of Florida is in an uproar over these kids being
stolen from under their parents very noses.
Understandably Freeman swiftly is elected the chief suspect and the
deeper he digs himself down into the molasses-thick murk the more he
draws the attention of the police and the FBI to his peculiar hermits
existence Fortunately Freeman has the help of a clever lawyer Billy
Manchester in keeping him out of custody. The killer seems to infallibly
be one step ahead of Max and is determined to implicate him thoroughly
in the serial murders. When Freeman is aided by a mysterious gaggle
of back-country boys, the sons of pioneers whose animosity towards strangers
is legendary, this quartet of woodsmen have their own reasons to catch
the culprit. Nonetheless with their collusion he is able to redeem himself
in part by finding one of the girls still alive. The apparent murderer
is also located but is found dead by his own hand.
Max is not convinced that the case is solved so neatly and still wants
to go it alone in his quest for personal redemption. Writer King gives
the story a powerful sense of urgency as his fish-out-water protagonist
plunges further and further into a treacherous wilderness,,the Everglades
which are described with a loving attention to detail - so much so that
you can smell the brackish air and taste the silty water on almost every
page, He never lets the local colour and flora and fauna slow down his
narrative in the least. It remains the sinister backcloth to the terrible
crisis that Max Freeman must undergo in order to fully regain his manhood
and take his appropriate place back in civilized society.
© Alex Grant April 2003
all rights reserved