Justice most certainly does not prevail for a man whose wife and daughter are killed. But will vengeance be the road he chooses in McDougall’s debut thriller?
The life of former military man Noel Anderson takes a harsh turn when he returns home to the flashing lights of police. He immediately suspects the men responsible for the murders: three lecherous landscapers whom Anderson had removed from his property. The resultant case seems cut and dry, but legal finagling leaves one man free and the other two with appallingly feeble sentences. Anderson seems to be moving on, regularly attending masses at a Catholic church and starting a relationship with vulnerable, potty-mouthed Jeannie. But when the man who avoided jail time winds up dead from an apparent suicide, Det. Crotty suspects Anderson. McDougall’s novel is a meticulous assessment, more of the consequences of violence than the violence itself. The assault on Anderson’s family is over quickly, while the repercussions are far more resonant. At the same time, the book takes a decidedly cynical view on the reaction from others. The words “sorry for your loss” are spoken so often they hold no meaning, and the cold, detached manner in which the cops investigate the scene is chilling. Jeannie is a more earnest character and a beneficial addition to the story, generating appeal with her OCD, rowdy past and merciless ex-boyfriend who won’t go away. The trial is presented almost in its entirety and although it’s a little too long, it provokes a sharp response; the case is examined so closely that the murderers’ false testimony even starts to sound persuasive to readers who know better. It’s not surprising that Anderson becomes apathetic. It’s also that much more satisfying when he’s provided with substance: He’s almost playful in responding to Crotty’s questions about the man’s demise, while his subsequent offer of forgiveness to the convicted men seems like a charade.
A revenge story that subverts expectations.