YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
At 92 breathless pages, this fatalistic thriller from confessional novelist Jonathan Ames ( Wake Up, Sir!, TV’S Bored To Death) will speed you through a long commute. Roaring to a start with the sort of violence that suggests both hero – and author – have broken bones before, it’s the tale of EX-FBI lone wolf Joe, who specialises in exfiltrating sex-trafficked girls when he’s not contemplating suicide: the only story where he can be sure of the ending. “Joe didn’t want any more fights,” Ames tells us, “because you didn’t win every fight.” But he still finds himself embroiled in the search for a senator’s kidnapped daughter, a mission everyone except the reader will come to regret. What follows contains no glamour (one character’s “cheap grey suit hung on him like jowls”), just bursts of dark poetry (“There was a sweet smell in the air, like a flower that had just died...”) and a brutal pragmatism befitting the character. After all, “A hammer [Joe’s favourite weapon] doesn’t ask why it strikes.”
The elegance ebbs a little towards the climax, where Ames, unsure whether he has written an ambitious short story begging for elongation or the prologue to something truly epic, leaves us wanting more. Much, much more.