As often happens in life for those with addiction issues, Joe Clifford’s fifth Jay Porter installment doesn’t portray a fairy tale happily-ever-after ending. The author strives to depict through his characters the dangers of drug addiction. In that, he succeeds. Brilliantly!
It's a dichotomy in the literary world that readers don't have to like the character to enjoy the book. Some don't even have to like the plot as long as they like the writing. The plot in this book, centering as it does on events that happened before—child abuse, pedophilia, a suspicious fire, questionable business practices, a rehab center built on toxic soil—is vague and in need of a jolt. What saves this book is the setting, juiced up with some interesting characters, and the writing. Especially the writing, which is excellent ... Author Joe Clifford knows what he's talking about when it comes to substance abuse ... For gritty realism and punchy narrative, nobody beats Joe Clifford.
The earlier novels had Porter doing detective work, which kept him—and us—from being overwhelmed by the awfulness of everything. But here, as he returns to his New Hampshire hometown after a time on the road, plot has given way to character study, and reader reaction will depend upon tolerance of a man who lives under a cloud of pessimism and depression. Clifford is one fine writer , but how many times can one read about 'used up, broken-down men'? The novel perks up in the last half as Porter seeks the identity of an arsonist, but the glumness is laid on so thick it begins to parody itself ... For those who eat, drink, and sleep noir, this one’s for you.
... impressive ... Clifford makes his lead’s complex backstory accessible for newcomers and doesn’t shy from having him engage in bad behavior, including assaulting Jenny’s new husband in front of Aiden. Steve Ulfelder’s fans will be pleased.