Berkley Prime Crime, November 2, 2010
Source: Review copy
I don't always say yes to a publisher when they contact me and ask if I'd be interested in an advance reader copy of a forthcoming book by a new writer. Sometimes I'm just not interested in the subject matter or other times I have way too many books that I'm chomping at the bit to read and won't be able to read the offered book in a timely manner.
But when the publisher for A Very Simple Crime contacted me to see if I'd be interested in a review copy, I said yes. I was intrigued. Here was a first novel that involved mental illness written by a guy whose been an advocate for learning disabled adults for ten years. I thought there might be some substance to this first novel, perhaps a fresh take on the psychological thriller.
I'm happy to say it was a good read, one that is getting better as it continues to bounce around in my brain. I'll recommend to readers who like their mystery/thrillers to have a psychological edge and at little legal action. The writing is deceptively simple. Take my advice and pay attention to the details as you're reading. If the beginning is a little slow or hard to get into, stick with it. It's one of those thrillers that starts with some short chapters that leave you wondering what the heck is going on, but you quickly get drawn into the story and when you think you know what's going on that's when you really don't know what's going on.
A Very Simple Crime is the story of Adam Lee, a man who was orphaned at a young age and, along with his older brother Monty, is sent to live with his mother's sister's family. Adam is a man who seems to have skimmed along the surface of life, not living very deeply. His older brother Monty is one of the most successful criminal defense lawyers in the Atlanta area and a handsome womanizer who seems to have it all. Adam has worshiped Monty since the two brothers were boys.
Adam marries Rachel, a mentally disturbed woman who is the sole heir to her wealthy father's fortunes. They have a child, Albert, who is mentally handicapped. Adam gets a job in his father-in-law's firm and is initially a competent, proficient worker. During his son's childhood, however, he starts to throw himself into his work and is surprised that he becomes successful. Eventually it becomes obvious that Albert needs to be institutionalized after he hits his mother in the head with an ashtray, hard enough that she is hospitalized. Life goes one. At first Adam and Rachel visit Albert regularly, but then Rachel's own mental illness intensifies and the visits dwindle. Adam seems trapped in his sick marriage . . . and from there the plot takes off.
When Rachel is found dead and obviously murdered, is seems a simple conclusion can be drawn that Albert, the son, did it. He was home visiting his mother that weekend. But complications arise. Enter Leo Hewitt, a junior deputy prosecutor whose once stellar career is now in shambles after being blamed for releasing a suspected child murder who was later caught red-handed. Leo is prompted to dig into this new crime. The authorities were going to consider the murder an open and closed case. But Leo finds some damning evidence. Dark history between Adam and Monty comes to light. Did Adam do it? He's claimed all along that he loved his wife....
A Very Simple Crime is one of those crime novels where you're left pondering characters, scenes, and the entire plot. You'll find yourself flipping back through parts of the book and realizing that little things mentioned here and there turn out to be significant things later on.
If you're interested, read the book now, because the movie version is in pre-production. Check out Grant Jerkins's website here.