Every mystery has a certain rhythm from crime to resolution, but the best ones have character and appreciation of the human condition. Arsenault has a fine grasp of the nuances of daily life, from former journalist and gambler Billy Povitch to Scratch, a petty criminal who finds his arm impaled by an ice pick after a surprise attack in his apartment bathroom.
The dark rhythms and absurdities of day-to-day existence are explored on these pages, whether for a miscreant or a weary son struggling with his father’s desire to be done with life. From the opening scene, an accident begun with a carjacking, this thriller is different, infused with personality and a compelling narrative, a small Rhode Island story riveting because it is so recognizable, so real.
The place isn’t important, nor the characters, but in context they take on life, a bright flare of calculated violence and desperate urgency, a seemingly random murder laced with more obscure motives, a careful plan overlooked by law enforcement at the crime scene. A dead man is found in his home: Superior Court Judge Gil Harmony, an upstanding member of his community with a sterling reputation, a tragic loss.
A carjacking soon after delivers another set of characters to fate, one of them hospitalized in critical condition and at least temporarily blind. When Martin Smothers, Patron Lawyer of Hopeless Causes, requests Billy Povitch’s help in looking deeper into the murder, Billy is drawn to a more complicated plot than first appears, a situation that gets personal and requires an appropriate response.
While Billy Povitch argues on behalf of life with a father who is tired of suffering, of endless hospital visits and chronic pain, he reflects on his own life and career: “When you drive past Respect, how far is Jealousy?” Whether they be gangsters, small-time, wise-cracking crooks, or a judge with secrets, these characters are familiar and relatable, engaging and surprising.
Arsenault has a talent for capturing the tempo of life, from the opening chapter to the intimate daily lives of the protagonists, a contrast between the mundane and the violent, writing with humor and shock for maximum impact. Like Don Winslow (The Winter of Frankie Machine, California Fire and Life, The Power of the Dog), this is an author whose characters are as critical as his story, good and bad guys who breathe reality into every page and make us care who wins and loses.