A book review: A Whiskey Jack in a murder of crows.

Books are strange. Sometimes reading them is like trying to stay awake in a freshman Philosophy class and sometimes its like riding a roller coaster while high on cold medicine. The great works (Germinal, Mark Twain, War & Peace, The Silmarillion) all make me feel like I’ve eaten a satisfying meal and there’s no loud noise, no jarring of elbows or stamping of feet, just a quiet lassitude and a full stomach.

A Whiskey Jack in a murder of crows isn’t a great book, not by a long shot, but it is a good book. For me, reading it was like sitting in front of a fireplace sipping an ice cold vodka. The slow burn of the alcohol, the toastiness of the fire…relaxing. Satisfying.

Enough with the metaphors. I was given this book by the author, Sam Knight, at AnomalyCon in Denver a couple of months ago and I finally managed to wade through my To Be Read pile and cracked the book open. So here goes…

This is not my usual fare (which is sic-fi, fantasy and all shades in-between). In fact, it is a cozy little murder mystery set in the heart of California’s wine country where a man by the name ofJack Tabor has retired to heal after losing everything. Scarred inside and out, Jack just wants to be left alone and mend, but life has a way of slapping away complacency and respite. Soon Jack finds out that all is not peaceful in Rainbow County and that there are people out in the big bad world set on killing him.

That’s the set up. Here’s the punch line…this book starts slow, it’s a character study as well as a drama, gradually pulling the reader into a world as well crafted as any by Raymond Chandler. The dialogue is reminiscent of a David Mamet script as well as the aforementioned Chandler, but fresh enough to have its own stamp of originality. The action, when it comes, is bold and brutal (almost Tarantino-like) but not gratuitous. In fact, the story unfolds like a slowly blossoming flower, each petal revealing more and adding the beauty of the whole. The ending might be a little too neat and tidy, but neat and tidy is preferable to sloppy and incomplete.

In the end, I finished the book well satisfied, happy that I had read it, which is as good a praise as I can offer to any body of work out there. Kudos to Sam Knight for the entertainment and for a well thought out, nicely crafted read. Before any of you say ‘hey, he gave you the book, of course you’re going to hand out a favorable review’, remember this: If I didn’t like it, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

Exit, stage left.

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