Monday, January 14, 2019

Holiday Reading Review

By Marietta Miles

Joe Clifford


My first step into Joe Clifford’s gritty and poetic world was 2013’s JUNKIE LOVE. I recall chilling on a family vacation, sitting by a crowded pool, hopeful about an interesting new read. While everyone laughed and played in the sun, I was caught up in Joe’s dirty tale, shaking my head, dropping my jaw, and needing to read more.

JUNKIE LOVE is bleak, vivid, and, at last, inspiring. Joe’s ability to see the smallest, yet most telling, side to a character paints this story with heartbreaking or uplifting detail. Each thoughtful touch, and there are so many, in JUNKIE LOVE is another stone in the path Joe has purposefully led you along.

This is an important book for those who like to be moved by what they read. Ambushed and haunted. By reflecting personal experiences within the world of addiction, Joe Clifford reaches beyond genre and shakes the reader awake. The book is literary shock and awe.

Yet, Joe has also delivered the expertly written Jay Porter series. This collection is classic mystery, with a rural-noir setting, and surprisingly dark enough to appease even my murkier leanings. Each installment is expertly paced and planned to incorporate individual themes and overall story. Porter’s attempt to save his junkie brother. The search for a missing journalist following the trail of more wrongdoing by Porter’s hometown enemies. The storylines are imaginative and deep, his characters are flawed enough to seem real, two important aspects to a great book. It’s good to remember, for all of his “Wild Card” persona, Joe has spent a large portion of his life learning and honing his craft and the Jay Porter series shows his hard work.

Now Joe Clifford has jumped head first into a terrifying, psychological thriller, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY and this may be his best, yet.

I could not put this book down. Joe has an unmatchable knack for building backstory and developing interesting personalities, so it’s a gift when are introduced to new creations. Alex Salerno might just be one of my favorite leads. She is tough, but fragile and flawed by the light of day and her story is remarkable. A survivor.

Burdened with a tough childhood and nearly destroyed by a traumatic and brutal assault, she pieces her life together day by day just to get by. When a tenacious young college reporter asks to interview her about her abduction and her escape for a school paper, the project sets off an emotional and dangerous chain of events.

The interview leads Alex into an investigation of a seemingly unrelated murder case in her hometown. A teenage girl has been missing for years, and though a body was never found, a man suspected of her murder was identified and sent to a mental hospital. Things aren’t as they seem, and Alex begins to think the suspected killer, a mentally-challenged man named Benny, has been wrongfully accused.

The story, for the most part, is told from Alex’s perspective, but we are also given the chance to see events from Benny’s point of view and this enriches the story, keeps the pace quick and fresh, and allows your heart to break for the indignities he has suffered.

If you enjoy thrillers with a psychological bend, Alex’s apprehension over returning home is well detailed and her very real fight for sanity is clear, you are going to love THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. If DARK PLACES and THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW sent shivers down your spine and drove you to search for more such writing, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY should be your next read.

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