First Sentence: It was December 5, a Wednesday.
A simple trip to the hardware store leaves reporter Jack McMorrow questioning the randomness of life. Or is it? His search for that answer takes him into a very dark side of Maine. When Jack and his friend Clair go to visit Iraq war veteran Louis, they are stopped by Marta, Russian woman a bag full of money and who's prepared to shoot them. How much is one willing to risk in the name of friendship?
No prologue, no narrative from a killer, no backflash; how wonderful it is to have an author who begins the story at the beginning and moves it on from there. The sense of place is established, and an immediate threat and suspense is established as well as a strong introduction to the main characters.
Boyle has an excellent voice—"BBC News, the usual reports from the yawing deck of the Titanic that is our world." and an ear for dialogue that's quick and sharp. Seeing McMorrow hypothesize the incident at the hardware store is fascinating. He takes all the pieces and puts them back together into a whole. Boyle echoes what most would think in this situation—"I didn't want to accept that this was normal." Yet Jack's reaction provides a very powerful explanation as to what motivates journalists.
Boyle is very good at laying a path of subtle breadcrumbs, but it is McMorrow's questioning of life which stands out—"We do the best we can, but sometimes we're still just squirrels crossing the road. Most of the time you're lucky. Other times, your luck runs out." One can also appreciate his perception that when a violent crime is committed, it is not only the victim but their family and the family of the perpetrator who suffers the cost.
Boyle understands mental illness. He makes a point of portraying one of the characters as a man who has a lot of good but is ill rather than evil. It is exceptionally well done, as are the points he raises about the price of friendship and loyalty.
"Random Act" is a book of two threads, each of which holds its own. This may be the most insightful book Boyle has written. It may also be his best.
RANDOM ACT (Reporter-Jack McMorrow-Maine-Contemp) - Ex
Boyle, Gerry – 12th in seriesIslandport Press – June 2019