Most helpful positive review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great first novel!
on June 26, 2012
Wow. I bought this for my Kindle on a lark, having never heard of the author before.
Now, I have been a crime fiction fanatic since I was an early teen. I've read hundreds of Crime fiction titles from the best and brightest. I only state this because I feel like I'm very familiar with the genre as a whole, and Hardboiled Crime/Noir specifically, and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, I would say Crime fiction is one of the things--one of the few things, perhaps--I know extremely well and can discuss at length with anyone. It's not often I pick up a title with no idea of who wrote it, and walk away as surprised as I was with this one.
After reading it, I knew I had to write a review and do my bit so that anyone who happens across this title will be more likely to give Jake Hinkson a shot. This guy has written a very, very engaging first novel that shimmers with promise and anticipation of things to come.
The basic plot is a rootless, dishonest man becomes a youth minister for an Arkansas church. He does it because he simply needs a place to live and money to live on. He is genial and can speak well. He has little problem making the congregation believe he is a decent, God fearing man whose only intention is the Lord's will. Now, readers will, or at least I did, strongly empathize with Webb, the protagonist of the novel. He's really not a bad sort. He's only trying to get by in life, and even if he doesn't believe what he's spouting to the congregation, he certainly isn't doing any harm. That's what makes some of the crimes he ends up committing all the more disturbing. You identify with him so much that when he does something appalling, you wonder what you would have done in the same situation.
His problems really begin with Angela, the Pastor's underage daughter. She's sixteen or seventeen and Webb immediately starts obsessing over her. Not really in a creepy, bizarre way, but in a way that most guys who have met a woman that leaves a serious impression on their heartstrings can fathom. I like the fact that Hinkson strays from cliche'-ville and instead of making her a beautiful and precocious Cheerleader/beach bunny Lolita, Angela is a pudgy, insecure girl who largely goes unnoticed by the world. Which, again, is true to life because often the people who leave extrordinary impressions on us to the point where we can't stop thinking of them often do not look like Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Beauty really is a subjective and bewildering concept. Again, so far, so good. We have a main character that could easily be you or I, in a situation that is perfectly plausible and understandable.
But then trouble brought on by the unpredictable vagaries of existence arise and Webb quickly begins to be swept up in them. The story that follows is disturbing, emotionally honest, and frighteningly realistic. I won't go further into detail so as not to ruin the surprise of some of the sudden and shocking events, but let's just say it's to the author's credit that as far down the moral ladder Webb climbs, it's hard not to relate and even root for him.
OK. To sum up: Hinkson is a real find. I will actively seek out this guy's work henceforth. He goes down on my MUST READ list. I think this is his first published novel. If this book wasn't nominated for a best first novel, somewhere, an injustice has been done. It's a fast read; I could easily see where other writers would have padded out the storylines and made it two or three times longer. But Hinkson stripped the story fairly close to the bone and we get a fast-paced and mesmerizing tale of lust, love and murder delivered masterfully by a new writer who writes like one of the established best. Already. In his first published book. Scary, in an absolutely wonderful way, to think of what this guy is capable of if he's already, out the gate, wrting this well.