Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Evil That Men Do, by Dave White

Dave White’s second novel starts shortly after his superb debut When One Man Dies. New Jersey P.I. Jackson Donne, recently stripped of his license, finds himself working a dead-end night security job at a storage facility in Piscataway. Donne, estranged from his family for years, gets an unexpected visit from his sister, Susan Carter. She tells him their mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s and claims their grandfather, Joe Tenant, killed a man in 1938. As Donne begins his investigation, the restaurant owned by Susan’s husband is bombed and, as befits a noir novel, the stories eventually intertwine.

As with his previous novel and numerous stories, White’s prose is stripped down and pitch-perfect. It is nearly impossible to find a clunky sentence or a bit of hooptedoodle. The parallel narrative of Joe Tenant in 1938 and Jackson Donne in present day is a nice twist on the genre. You can see the family traits passed down from grandfather to grandson. Tenant is tenacious in tracking down those who promised to do his family harm. Donne, always a tenacious investigator, starts off as resistant to the pull of family only to end up reconciling with his family and becoming stronger for it.

As always, White likes to put Donne through the emotional wringer. Since this novel is written in third person, White also takes the opportunity to put a few of his characters through a physical wringer too. His brutal descriptions of a character’s imprisonment and torture fit nicely with other 21st century novels.

The book is definitely a page-turner. I picked up my copy on its release date and tore through the first 80 some odd pages in my first sitting. Though I will say, this novel didn’t resonate with me as long as Dave’s first. Maybe my anticipation of another Donne novel built things up too much. Maybe the shift from first to third person didn’t get me connected as closely with Donne. I don’t know. This is still a great book and I recommend it to everyone.