Review

Sympathy Between Humans

by Jodi Compton

Jodi
Compton came quite literally out of nowhere in 2004 with THE 37th
HOUR, a dark novel of secrets, revenge, and rough but appropriate
justice. A number of questions were left unresolved at its close,
making SYMPATHY BETWEEN HUMANS, its nominal sequel, a highly
anticipated follow-up. It does not disappoint, and in some ways it
exceeds the expectations raised by its predecessor.

While SYMPATHY BETWEEN HUMANS stands fine on its own, I would
strongly recommend reading THE 37th HOUR first. This hardly will be
a sacrifice. The book, which introduces Minneapolis police officer
Sarah Pribek, is incredibly well-written and knowing what came
before will enhance enjoyment of this latest work. The novels join
together almost as if they were one long story separated by
bindings; my impression after reading them was that they were in
fact originally written as one. Each work has its own strengths,
however, and SYMPATHY BETWEEN HUMANS does not rely on THE 37th HOUR
as its reason for existence. Compton keeps things moving quite
nicely from the first page, creating three separate plotlines ---
one dealing with unresolved matters left over from THE 37th HOUR
and two new ones.

The major unresolved issue from THE 37th HOUR is the pall of
suspicion cast over Pribek with respect to the murder of Royce
Stewart. While Pribek did not do the deed, she was present at the
occurrence and certainly complicit in the subsequent cover-up. The
investigation into Stewart's murder seems to have faded quietly
away until Grey Diaz, a Faribault County District Attorney,
emerges. Faribault County is the locus of Stewart's death. While
Stewart was a waste of skin, Diaz, stuck in a quiet position with
time on his hands and ambition in his heart, appears on the scene
and begins pursuing Pribek as a likely suspect.

Compton creates an extremely interesting situation here. THE 37th
HOUR closed with the readers knowing that Pribek looked to be the
primary suspect, so that the publication of SYMPATHY BETWEEN HUMANS
comes with its own sense of urgency. But Compton does not let the
book coast on this lone plotline. Pribek becomes involved in what
appears to be the case of a runaway teenager. As is the case
throughout the novel, however, there is more here than is evident
at first blush. During the course of her investigation, Pribek
uncovers a mystery and a secret that has lain dormant for several
years. There are elements of gothic mystery here, surprisingly so,
and Compton puts this plotline to good use as a contrast to the
other professional and personal elements of Pribek's life.

Additionally, and perhaps most significantly, Pribek is assigned to
investigate the rumor of an unlicensed individual practicing
medicine in an impoverished area of Minneapolis. She is able to
identify the individual --- Cicero Ruiz --- fairly quickly but does
not arrest him and, in fact, stalls the investigation. The passages
concerning Pribek's involvement with Ruiz illustrate the extent of
Compton's literary craftsmanship. Pribek is a flawed, damaged soul
who makes decisions that often are steeped in confusion. Yet the
reader understands precisely why Pribek acts as she does with Ruiz
as much by what is not said as by what is. Compton accordingly
demonstrates not only a faith in her own talent but also a respect
for her reader. If one of the major rules of writing is "show,
don't tell," in these passages Compton reveals the outline of the
bump behind the curtain in the darkened room of Ruiz and Pribek's
uneasy, flawed relationship.

SYMPATHY BETWEEN HUMANS ends, as does its predecessor, with some
unresolved issues. Whether these will be addressed by Compton in a
future novel or consigned to the reader's imagination remains to be
seen. What is certain, however, is that Compton, in the short space
of two novels, has become a major literary voice to be reckoned
with. Very highly recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Sympathy Between Humans
by Jodi Compton

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • ISBN-10: 0385337140
  • ISBN-13: 9780385337144