First line: "Jamal ran."
Journalist Joe Donovan's life and marriage began to corrode the day his son went missing in the department store. He's spending his days in a sad puddle of despair and alcohol when his former colleague Maria comes knocking on his door for help finding a missing journalist. Finding the journalist turns out to be the least of their problems.
Martyn Waites first book in the Joe Donovan series is darkly fantastic. He's created a cast of characters that are realistic, gripping and mult-dimensional. His child-prostituting villain is fittingly repulsive, but what is truly fascinating is the mob mentality that Waites also illustrates in this novel.
Joe Donovan is the obvious protagonist, but his young friend Jamal steals the show. Jamal's awkward mix of immaturity and maturity beyond his years, forced on him by his circumstances, create a fascinating specimen in this pint-sized hero. And his wit offers brief points of levity to an otherwise bleak tone.
Along the way, Donovan also befriends a pair of private eyes, Peta and Amar. Through the characters of THE MERCY SEAT, Waites has created a bit of a microcosm: each character distinctly singular with his/her own struggles and misfortunes, experiences and exploits. It is these characters that drive the plot and set the tone of the novel. While that tone is unarguably mournful and drab, the reader can't help but cling to the hope that justice will prevail.
Waites introduces Donovan's history because it plays an essential role in understanding the relationship he forms with Jamal. However, many questions are left unanswered leading the reader to believe that this part of Donovan's life will continue to be an issue in subsequent installments in the series.
One of the great joys of this audiobook is the fact that Martyn Waites narrates it himself. While there are many authors who should not narrate their own books, Waites has a history in acting and does an outstanding job reading his story to the audience. This is a rare opportunity to hear the author's interpretation in a quality performance. I especially appreciated his reading of the young, punk kid Jamal and the gay PI, Amar. Waites sense of humor comes through in those two characters. And on a silly, personal note, I simply love the sound of Waites' British dialect.
THE MERCY SEAT is available in the U.S. from Pegasus in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1-9336-4800-2) and from Pocket Books in trade paper (ISBN:978-1-4165-0222-7). The audio is published by Magna Story Sound (ISBN: 978-1-8465-2084-6).
Thursday, February 10, 2011
First line: "Jamal ran."