I have this recurring dream wherein I sit with a net on some
boulders in the middle of a rapidly flowing stream. My task is to
use the net to catch items that flow by on either side of me. I
feel generally as if I am doing a humdinger of a job, yet I have an
uneasy feeling that I am missing an object here and there. Indeed,
this dream is (I believe) my subconscious trying to tell me that
tasks are floating by me, going undone.
One real world object that I almost missed is IMMORAL, Brian
Freeman's debut novel. It was published in September, and if not
for the grace of good friends I might have missed it. This would
have been a personal tragedy, as I was reaching one of those (rare)
low ebbs of energy for reading. A few pages into the book and ---
boom! --- the batteries were recharged.
IMMORAL takes place, for the most part, in Duluth, Minnesota with a
short but important sidebar trip (make that two trips) to Las
Vegas. The catalyst, Rachel Deese, is a teenage Mata Hari whose
sinister sensuality is too smoldering to be contained in relatively
provincial Duluth. When she suddenly vanishes, the occurrence
mirrors the disappearance of another beautiful teenager the year
before. Duluth police lieutenant Jonathan Stride is under pressure
to find a killer, a task made more difficult by the inability of
the authorities to find Rachel's body as well as Stride's residual
grief over the death of his wife. When Rachel's bracelet and a
blood-splattered article of her clothing are located, Stride is
able to bring a suspect to justice. But the story of Rachel, and
the people she has affected, is only beginning.
Freeman's surefooted narrative leads through a deceptive simple
plot, spoonfeeding the reader characters who, within a few pages,
seem to be intimately familiar. Indeed, IMMORAL has the comfortable
feel of a long-running series as opposed to a debut novel that
introduces an entire cast of characters. The subject matter,
however, is anything but settling. By the last third of the book
one has the feeling that anything can happen --- and indeed, it
does. Freeman saves the last 100 pages to introduce some of the
book's most interesting, and important, characters. The result is
that while it is possible to guess part of the novel's conclusion,
it is highly unlikely that one will figure out all of it.
IMMORAL and its author are not to be missed. This one will keep you
up all night. Start early, read late.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011