Aric Davis is the real deal. My first taste of his work occurred last year in the form of a dark, gritty tale titled THE FORT, which I would recommend to you without reservation. While I haven’t read his other previous books --- an error and omission that I intend to remedy later this year --- I made sure to read his newly published TUNNEL VISION, which I found impossible to stop reading once I started. I am sure that your results will be the same.
Interestingly enough, TUNNEL VISION is one of those rare books that quite easily straddles the crime thriller and young adult market. Its primary characters are of teenage years. Still, it is not your parents’ (or grandparents’) Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew and is told from a number of viewpoints. The first among equals of these would be Nickel. From what I am able to determine, Nickel was introduced in NICKEL PLATED, making this one a sequel of sorts. Nickel makes ends meet by growing and dealing marijuana and functioning as an unlicensed quasi-private investigator in Grand Rapids. He is also, interestingly enough, a teenager whose busy schedule does not permit him to partake of the joys of a high school education. It’s just as well; you don’t want to mess with Nickel, as is conclusively demonstrated in the opening pages. The lad fools people because he gets around occasionally by cab, but primarily by bicycle, while his peers (if he really had any) get around by car.
"It is set in the real world; the characters are engaging; the plot is intriguing; and, yes, it is really well-written, so much so that an average reader could finish it in a few days and enjoy doing so."
When we first meet Nickel, he is returning to Grand Rapids in order to pick up where he left off, a task that involves doling out some grim justice in the worst way to a former friend and partner. However, Nickel soon finds himself involved in the unofficial investigation of a murder that was considered to have been solved some 15 years previously. The victim was Mandy, a young drug addict and prostitute whose boyfriend --- and fellow addict and prostitute --- was a three-time loser named Duke. He was convicted of her death, in part because of a confession that he later unsuccessfully attempted to recant.
TUNNEL VISION opens with a passage from Mandy’s journal, but then jumps to the present, where a local movement to reopen Duke’s conviction is gathering steam. Two young women are caught up in the passion. One, named Jane, discovers that she is in fact Mandy’s niece; the other is Betty, her best friend, who is determined to help Jane uncover the truth behind her late aunt’s death, no matter what it might be. Nickel gets involved when Jane’s mother (who is Mandy’s sister) hires Nickel to keep an eye on Jane and keep her safe, in case the new-found publicity concerning Mandy’s murder starts to blow back on her. Nickel is happy for the work, but is still supplementing his income by growing and dealing weed, which in turn leads to a dangerous situation with a customer.
The plot has some twists and turns, but not too many, and a bit of violence, but not too much. By book’s end, the main issues are resolved, yet there are still plenty of threads to provide at least opening fodder for more Nickel stories, as well as the return of those characters who make it to the conclusion.
A note here: It has become fashionable as part of the high school curriculum to assign a specific book for summer reading. It has been my experience that these books do little more than create future ex-readers. I would recommend assigning TUNNEL VISION, or something like it. It is set in the real world; the characters are engaging; the plot is intriguing; and, yes, it is really well-written, so much so that an average reader could finish it in a few days and enjoy doing so. Best of all, parents could pick it up and read it without being bored to tears. While there are a couple of mature themes presented, they are tastefully handled and certainly nothing more or less than what your average high school student is discussing right now, whether you know it or not. Give TUNNEL VISION a read and see if you agree.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 17, 2014