Is it truly possible to be born under a bad sign? The half brothers in Ellory's (Ghostheart, 2015, etc.) latest novel think so, and their attempts to shake their destiny are the subject of a haunting thriller set in the early 1960s.
The trials of Digger Danziger and his sibling, the ironically surnamed Clay Luckman, begin when their mother is murdered by Clay’s impulsive father. Both come of age in abusive juvenile prisons; their only escape comes when Earl Sheridan, a psychopathic killer bound for execution, breaks out of jail and takes them both hostage. Sheridan manages another string of grisly killings before he’s caught, and Clay escapes just before the law catches up. Taking his revenge for the escape, the dying Sheridan convinces authorities that Clay was responsible for the murders. After his death, Sheridan influences the brothers in opposite ways: Digger emulates him and becomes an even more brutal killer. Clay continues his escape run with Bailey, a wise-beyond-her-years teenage girl who was orphaned in one of Sheridan’s rampages. He doesn’t know he’s being pursued by the authorities, who believe Digger is dead and Clay is the criminal.
The story has enough depth to work on a few levels: as an existential look at the nature of fate or as a gripping story in its own right. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the caring Clay and the violent Digger as symbols of America’s divided psyche at this point in its history.