Monday, March 19, 2012
The Man from Primrose Lane--James Renner
James Renner has produced a couple of books of nonfiction before this, his first novel. His skill is evident and the novel--a result, at least partially of his own wide reading and his own interest in crime writing is stunning.
For the first two thirds of the book we follow the story of David Neff, a writer for an indie newspaper, whose passion for the truth manifests in the investigation of a series of murders that had taken place several years previously in his native Northern Ohio. (As a side note, it was a pleasure to read of towns and places that I know of but few have ever heard of--Ravenna, Canton, along with Akron, Kent, and Cleveland). His researches lead directly to the trial of an additional perpetrator and may have indirectly precipitated his wife's death.
With the exception of two very odd interludes that presage the third section of the novel, all of this is told in a very straightforward, if fun, time hopping sort of way, with the recounting of a story propelling the reader back in time or forward or sidewise in time.
Ah, but that third section of the novel. For awhile, as conventions of the genre (I won't say which) were not so carefully observed, the novel trembled on the edge of incoherence and collapse--but once we conquered the exposition, the novel switched into ultra high gear and ultra confusion--leading to what seemed like a really bad conclusion that is transformed itself.
It was very odd to read this book in conjunction with Palma's The Map of Time, with which it shares a worldview, or universe view and other interesting thematic elements. It was also odd to read this book which constantly reminded me of the better works of Philip K. Dick. Indeed, I would say that Renner has the right to claim the mantle for most reality-bending novel since Dick.
Remarkable novel, beautiful written, highly recommended.