My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’ve been a fan of Joyce Juzwik’s writing ever since she introduced me to the online writing community over at Flash Fiction Friday. Her writing flows very well… it is both clean and nuanced… and she brings depth and a sharp realism to her characters; something that is missing from the characters in some books I have read. ‘Homo erectus’ is a flawed creature… why should the characters we write and read about be less so?
Joyce’s first novel – King’s Bishop Takes King’s Rooks’ Pawn – takes us inside the mind of a serial killer and the police detective determined to bring a psychopath to justice. She draws the protagonist- Detective Charlie Dunne – with a caring and compassion that adds great depth to the character… giving him real strength… and real flaws.
Charlie has a keen sense of justice… he also has a troubled past… a past that threatens his latest case. A serial killer has ‘come to roost’ in the quiet small town Charlie has moved to in the hopes of starting his life over. The killer has deliberately… but wait, I don’t want to spoil anything here. You’ll have to read for yourself.
Charlie quickly finds himself battling both the ticking clock of a serial killer’s ‘timetable’ as well as contending with the small-mindedness of a small town city council intent on not letting the ‘good name’ of their fair city become soiled with the publicity of a madman on the loose by bringing in help for Detective Dunne, who struggles with woefully inadequate resources with which to catch the killer. On top of all of that, Charlie is still battling his own personal demons.
What makes this story all the more intriguing is that Joyce tells it from the differing perspectives of the major characters as well as the victims… allowing us glimpses inside the minds of these people… seeing and feeling their needs, wants, desires… including the sick, twisted fantasies of the killer – a rare glimpse into the pathology of a madman.
There are no red herrings in this story, but Joyce does make the reader work for the story… feeding bits and pieces at a time and making the reader think… to draw their own inferences from the facts presented. I don’t care much for stories that hand the reader everything on a plate… like the author doesn’t think we are smart enough to figure stuff out. Joyce does not do that.
King’s Bishop is a well-plotted read with just enough sub-plot to keep the story interesting but not so much that the reader becomes lost. And as the reader will soon see, this sub-plot is integral to the story. It hasn’t been ‘thrown in’ simply to add pages to the book.
Joyce’s narrative style moves the reader along at a good pace, building the suspense with each chapter… each new revelation… and as the body count climbs, the reader becomes completely caught up in the story… emotions roller-coastering along with the story… until the very end. An end I confess I had not quite expected and thus was very pleased with. It ended the way a good thriller should end.
King’s Bishop is noir… a crime drama… it doesn’t have a happy ending, nor should it. Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns… bad things happen to good people and sometimes, fighting the good fight doesn’t save you in the end. Lives are changed… some shattered beyond repair or redemption.
The final scene, as much of Joyce’s writing does, took my breath away with its shocking, brutal finality. Joyce is a writer who clearly knows her craft and her audience. I would recommend King’s Bishop Takes King’s Rook’s Pawn to anyone who loves good suspense.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
3 May 2012
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