This is the best book I’ve read this year.
I’ve never read the Godfather. I’ve never been drawn to gangster novels. I’m not even big on gritty crime dramas. I couldn’t tell you why I bought this one. Maybe it was the feeling I got from the first couple pages. There was something different about it. Second sentence: Killing was an art, requiring finesse, planning, skill—and above all—patience. Depending on your mood, you could read that as lurid for lurid’s sake. I read it as extraordinary. That’s what I ended up reading, an extraordinary book.
This book is not a murder mystery. It’s not a crime drama. It’s not a mob story. It is much more. It’s a horror story. It’s a warm reflection on youth and friendship. It’s a tragedy. It’s an innocent love story. It’s a gritty descent into violence. It’s a hard look at love, honor, revenge and redemption. It is a complex story that will demand your full attention.
I usually read 2-3 books at once. One that I’ve dragged to the other room and forgot where I put it and the one I found while looking for the first. I was doing that with Murder Takes Time clear up to the third chapter. Six pages of this, ten pages of that. I realized Murder Takes Time was too deep and too complex to play that game. I set everything else aside and sat down one Saturday to read the book clear through. It was that good.
The story is told on two time lines and from several different Points Of View (POV). There might be a few too many POVs, which requires a little more attention than the average book, but in the end, it’s worth it. We get behind the eyes of an honorable but troubled man, his tragedies, his loves, and his friends. We also get behind the eyes of a detective trying to solve a series of grisly murders. We know who did it. We don’t know why. When we discover why, we want to stop him. When we can’t, we find ourselves in the odd position of understanding him. By the end of the book, you will root for bad people with good reason.
It is the writer’s goal to make sympathetic characters. In this book, we sympathize with characters that logic would tell us to avoid. We also see a betrayal building that makes us want to jump in and stop the story. The recriminations, accusations, misdirection and denials make us want to scream. And when you get that involved in a story, you know you’re reading something great.
All I know about Catholicism I learned from the Exorcist. I know, it’s like saying: I learned about Italy at the Olive Garden. I can’t judge the authenticity of the Church and nuns portrayed in the story. But the accuracy wouldn’t matter. This is not a story with stereotyped nuns and clerics. This is a story about people. And here again, the master storyteller crafts visceral people in habits and cassocks. Mr. Giammatteo lulls us into complacency by first showing us a nun as a waxy figurine. Then he shows us her flesh and blood, her love and regret. And not in any way you will predict.
When we approach the conclusion, we feel like the preacher who escorts the condemned man to the gallows. We know we can’t change his fate. We know that what’s about to happen is the right thing to happen at that time and place. And yet we don’t want it to happen. We try to will it away. To change the course of a history already written in stone. We find ourselves shouting at the characters, urging them to choose a different path, to avoid the inevitable train wreck of two good men. But it won’t work. It can’t work. Yet, when the fireworks begin, something different happens. Something extraordinary. And it makes sense. In the end, the story resolves the way you know it should. It works because you will believe in redemption and atonement.
Couldn’t we all use a dose of redemption?
This is the best book you will read this year.
Peace, Seeley James
Special NOTE: Stories about the many fake, sock-puppet, or straw-man reviews have been making the news lately. MY REVIEWS ARE MY REACTIONS TO THE BOOKS I’VE READ. I have no relationship, financial or familial, with the authors. I do not expect, but would not refuse, any reciprocal reviews or recommendations. Just sayin.