An extended flight delay two Sundays ago meant I had plenty of time to read Allen Eskens's third book THE HEAVENS MAY FALL. It is the inaugural book in my To Be Read Project.
Back at the Long Beach Bouchercon I got up exceedingly early on Sunday morning to attend a panel with a few first time authors. I was there to hear another writer, but was prompted at the end of the panel to walk straight into the book room to find a copy of Mr. Eskens's first book, WHAT LIES BENEATH. It is a winner, one that I would recommend to people looking for a new voice in crime fiction. It is a haunting story full of finely drawn characters. It is without doubt the best first mystery I have read in a very long time. I have almost zero memory of his second book except that I was disappointed. My high expectations probably damned the book from the outset.
THE HEAVENS MAY FALL will not suffer that same fate as this was the most enjoyable work I have read in some time. The book has a nice set up and an even finer middle with expanding complication in the narrative. My qualms come as we switch perspectives from the Police Detective to the attorney that represents the accused. It is always a tricky hand off in any story, but I was more compelled by the cop than the lawyer in this instance. I have gone back and forth about the the end of the book as well. At times I feel it is a bit too tidy in the reveal of the murderer. However, in the same thought I think I am being too hard on it. I'm not unsatisfied by the conclusion, but the events that proceeded it were so carefully composed and forcefully written that I feel that the end is just a step behind what is a pretty wonderful book. You should ignore those minor quibbles and just read it.
On to the next book. It is the DEVIL'S EDGE by Stephen Booth.