YOU WERE NEVER RE­ALLY HERE

Crime Scene - - POST MORTEM - BY JONATHAN AMES

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.

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