Religion, romance, murder, family and politics combine in Johannesen’s (Last One Close the Gate, 2013, etc.) latest novel.
How does one’s knowledge of the past affect one’s knowledge of the future—and how much should it, when one’s life and family are at stake? This novel centers on Solomon Fairchild, whose calm life as a Quaker in suburban Massachusetts turns to tumult. His uncle and former employer, Rory MacLeod, is nearing death, and he’s anxious to address his past as an associate of Howard Hughes in Hollywood. Specifically, MacLeod wants to pass on important information about his dealings with Hughes, the Israeli government, the Mormon church and other massively powerful entities. Johannesen engagingly relays this information in the form of files and journals, many of which appear verbatim in the text. Solomon’scousin Phil, who once worked for MacLeod, is found shot in the Utah wilderness. Solomon and Phil’s widow, Amy, once had a romantic relationship, and they rekindle their long-simmering attraction. Adrift in emotional confusion, Solomon endeavors to piece together the dark facts of his cousin’s death, but he soon finds himself up against government surveillance agencies; at one point, he’s even imprisoned in an insane asylum. As he uncovers connections between Hughes, the Mossad and the Mormon church, he must also piece together his own shattered life. It all leads to a spectacular, prophetic conclusion. Johannesen mixes lyrical exposition into an old-fashioned whodunit. Throughout, the complicated but sharp prose (“Amy sat off from him in a lustrous, peaceful glow, no longer pale and dark but awake”) is inventive and authentic. The incorporation of excerpts from MacLeod’s journals also effectively draws readers into Solomon’s sleuthing experience.
A winding, intelligent thriller.