Author: Joe Clifford
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Synopsis: In a frigid New Hampshire winter, Jay Porter is trying to make a living and maintain some semblance of a relationship with his former girlfriend and their two-year-old son. When he receives an urgent call that Chris, his drug-addicted brother, is being questioned by the sheriff about his missing junkie business partner, Jay feels obliged to come to his rescue
After Jay negotiates his brother’s release from the county jail, Chris disappears into the night. As Jay begins to search for him, he is plunged into a cauldron of ugly lies and long-kept secrets that could tear apart his small hometown and threaten the lives of Jay and all those he holds dear. Powerful forces come into play that will stop at nothing until Chris is dead and the information he harbors is destroyed.
I usually don’t like short books. If it pans less than 200 pages, I often feel as if the novel could not get into the crux of the story within its numbered pages, that everything was vague or skimmed over. Sometimes an author will move too quickly, and the plot will fly by in a blur. This book was short enough for me to read in two brief sittings, but I loved it. Lamentation is aptly named, after the mountain that makes numerous appearances in Jay Porter’s narrative.
I loved this main character. A man almost at the end of his rope, we see Jay Porter looking at how his life has ended up. The woman he still loves (and has a kid with) has moved out and has a new boyfriend. He lives alone in a dirty apartment. His pay is irregular and his outlook is bleak. He is cynical and unmotivated to make any changes. What he goes through felt incredibly real to me. Thrust unwillingly into a situation, we see Jay’s reluctance. As a reader, we egg him on and cry out triumphantly as he begins to unravel the mystery of the story. Though this story is labeled as a “mystery,” I enjoyed Jay’s story more as a character study of his relationship with his brother, Chris.
I had trouble feeling engaged in the first few pages, but Jay Porter was what kept me turning the pages. Once the secrets were unveiled, I was hooked. What drew me in the most, however, was Jay’s relationship with Jenny. Their situation was familiar, and yet stood on its own as a unique circumstance. The complexity of their storyline made me hungry for interaction between them.
A master of setting, Joe Clifford chose the perfect backdrop in which to set the Jay Porter series. Ashton is described with such total bleakness, I imagined it as nearly uninhabitable. The mountain towers above everything, and snow renders everything lifeless. I loved seeing the characters struggle through the desolate landscape. There is nothing pretty about Ashton, that was made evident in every scene.
I had the chance to meet Joe Clifford when he visited my university last month. It was a little surreal, sitting in the same building that Joe had sat in for his undergraduate studies. We were “in the same boat,” as it were. Honest, and more than a little cocky, I liked Joe immediately, and decided to give Lamentation a try. Best decision I’ve made all semester.
I’ll definitely be checking out his sequel, December Boys.