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Give Up the Dead: A Jay Porter Novel


Give Up the Dead: A Jay Porter Novel

The premise of Joe Clifford’s three novels in his Jay Porter series is as bleak as the winter weather that is the northern New Hampshire setting for these books. Prior to 2016’s DECEMBER BOYS, Clifford earned a 2015 Anthony Award nomination for the series debut, LAMENTATION.

Protagonist Jay Porter carries more baggage than a major airline. In youth, his parents were killed in a suspicious vehicle accident. His brother-turned-junkie seemed to know a few too many details of that crash. But Jay defended his older sibling Chris, all the while knowing he was a lost cause, like putting “Band-Aids on a broken leg.”

Jay’s wife divorced him and took the joy out of his life, his six-year-old son, Aiden. All he has left is lifelong friend Charlie Finn, who has addiction issues of the fermented kind: “A couple sips of beer and he was right as rain.” Were it not for bad luck, Jay would have none at all.

"The author’s command of storytelling is phenomenal... I keep coming back for what Jay Porter has to offer."

Two plotlines converge. Jay is 34, an estate clearer (“cleaning out the [crap] nobody wants from dead people’s houses”) for Tom Gable, who is beaten with a tire iron and left for dead. While Tom is in a coma, Jay becomes a suspect, given that Tom had just penned a note wanting his underling to inherit the business should anything happened to him. Go-between Vin Biscoglio (“a linebacker able to bench press Humvees”) claims to work for uber-rich Ethan Crowder, who wants unwitting sleuth Jay to find his missing teen son. Phillip has addiction issues and is believed to be squirreled away by Mom at a secretive rehab center.

The author’s command of storytelling is phenomenal, but it’s difficult to relate to Jay, who dreams of taking his son to Disney World. While berating those with addiction issues, Jay offs a six-pack daily and a carton of cigs each week --- enough money spent in a few years to pay for that dream trip to the Mouse House. Still, Jay plods along aspiring to make a better life for his estranged family. And that, friends, is what makes for good writing. I keep coming back for what Jay Porter has to offer. Yet “Winning battles at the cost of losing the war is still losing.”

A former homeless junkie, Joe Clifford dedicates his life to helping other ex-junkies construct platforms for creative endeavors. Clifford pulled himself out of a drug death spiral to become a successful author. How much of Jay Porter is in Joe Clifford, and vice versa? “Everyone’s the hero in his own story,” but Clifford toots Jay’s horn, not his own.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on June 9, 2017

Give Up the Dead: A Jay Porter Novel
by Joe Clifford

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1608092046
  • ISBN-13: 9781608092048