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Thursday, December 18, 2003

January Magazine's Best of 2003 

January Magazine has put up their very own Best of 2003 book section. On the crime fiction side, it's especially impressive, as most of my own "Best of" books are included. I've got five reviews in there. The only one that hasn't been edited down from an earlier review is Jules Hardy's MISTER CANDID, which quite frankly, bowled me over and knocked me for a loop when I first read it earlier this fall. Here's an excerpt of the review:

In the stunning Mister Candid, Jules Hardy poses many disturbing questions and doesn't offer easy answers. For nearly two decades, law-enforcement types have half-whispered theories about Mister Candid. Some say he doesn't exist; others believe the shadowy figure has been on a systematic quest to right wrongs, killing scores of people who committed unspeakable crimes yet remained beyond the law's reach. The truth might be found among a series of disconnected people and items: a wizened, dying woman in a Florida rest home; the photograph of a laughing young man leaning against the hood of his Cadillac; and the mysterious disappearance of a rich East Hampton family 17 years ago. Putting the pieces together are an ex-NYPD officer long past burnout, a former nurse-turned-New York transplant who makes ends meet by turning tricks (while she waits for the man of her dreams), and Charlie Kane, who may be the biggest mystery of all. Mister Candid is a difficult novel to summarize, as it's less a whodunit than a carefully crafted psychological study of what drives someone to seek revenge, and the fine line between heroism and malignity. This book also chronicles a family so dysfunctional it makes Jacobean drama seem like fluffy comedy. Hardy's second novel (after 2002's Altered Land) is disturbing, unflinching and wholly uncomfortable. By rights, it should have descended into over-the-top melodrama, but instead it's saved by the author's straight-ahead prose style and its blistering pace. This is not for the faint of heart, nor for anyone unprepared to do some serious thinking after turning the final page. In short, it's nearly a masterpiece.

The UK press reviewed it as a literary novel, and really, it is. But it's also a hell of a reworking of genre conventions. Seek it out. Be bowled over. And hope it gets a US deal.

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