Review

The 37th Hour

by Jodi Compton



It's sad but true. There are some books that should be major
bestsellers but are released to a resounding Flop! and
barely see the light of day. They may acquire a quiet cult
following, but they never achieve the notoriety, the fame, that
they deserve. There are a number of reasons why this happens,
though it can sometimes occur for no reason at all. One of my
favorite novels, a little suspense novel titled KARMA by Mitchell
Smith, may not even be in print anymore. Another book, a mystery
titled THE DEATH OF THE DETECTIVE by Mark Smith (no relation, heh
heh) contains some of the most memorable prose I have ever read. I
know of two people, besides myself, who have ever read it.

THE 37TH HOUR by Jodi Compton is a fine, unforgettable debut. My
goal is to make sure that people know about it, read it and
remember it. And that they are still talking about it years from
now, remembering the day that they first discovered her.

The title, THE 37TH HOUR, refers to the truism that after 36 hours
it is nearly impossible to find a missing person, or at least find
them still living. There are of course exceptions to that ---
Elizabeth Smart being the most recent one --- but it generally
holds true in those cases where someone goes missing as the result
of the bad intent of another or by misadventure. In the case of
this novel, it refers to Michael Shiloh, who disappears on the day
that he is supposed to leave Minnesota for Quantico, Virginia to
begin FBI training. Shiloh is the silent subject of much of THE
37TH HOUR, but the focus of the book is Minneapolis Detective Sarah
Pribek, Shiloh's wife, who doggedly pursues the investigation of
her husband's disappearance. Pribek is an enigmatic character, as
ultimately is Shiloh.

As the story unfolds the reader learns how these two people after
an initial encounter drifted slowly, almost reluctantly, toward a
more permanent relationship. Pribek's quest takes her into Shiloh's
past, including his estranged family. It is Pribek's own past
though that ultimately holds the key to Shiloh's mysterious
disappearance. Pribek's investigation, however, uncovers secrets
and ultimately acts as a catalyst that will change her life
forever.

Compton's character development in THE 37TH HOUR is simply
incredible. Pribek, almost from the opening page of her first
person narration, gives the subtle impression that she is not
entirely on balance. There is a reason for this --- she carries
some baggage with her --- and her quietly odd relationship with
Shiloh is but one manifestation of the quiet turmoil within her. As
is occasionally noted in Alanon meetings, however, a "ten" doesn't
marry a "two." And by the conclusion of THE 37th HOUR, you won't
know whether you should have stared or looked away. This is not an
explosions-and-karate novel. Compton paints a complete picture, but
very slowly, with a stroke here and a brush there, keeping things
quietly simmering but always interesting.

THE 37TH HOUR is supposed to be the first of a series of Pribek
novels, and it is a tribute to Compton's success and talent that
readers of her book will sit on tenterhooks as they await what
comes next. Meanwhile, THE 37TH HOUR will be read and reread, and
will haunt the consciousness of its readers.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 20, 2011

The 37th Hour
by Jodi Compton

  • Publication Date: January 25, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dell
  • ISBN-10: 0440241367
  • ISBN-13: 9780440241362