Monday, September 8, 2008


The first time out with Jackson Donne, When One Man Dies, author Dave White switched between Donne's first person perspective and a third-person perspective that followed close on "antagonist" detective Bill Martin. With his latest, The Evil That Men Do, White blows up his scope even larger. Now every major character is followed at some point or another with the third person. Shit, there's even a separate storyline moving forward throughout the novel (it is italicized) that takes place sixty-nine years before the main storyline. It should also be noted that The Evil That Men Do is more of a crime thriller than a mystery novel, with only one major surprise going down late in the story and the real mystery being the "why" rather than the "who." Like I said, we're following damn near everyone in this book, even some poor kid who finds a gun and, sadly, does the right thing.

I mention the slight genre switch and change of narrative style not just to impress you with my knowledge of literary terms that everyone knows, but because I have noticed that it is a trend with many crime novelists. I'm one of those assholes who insists on - when possible - reading an author's work from the beginning. Naturally, this is especially important to me when reading books in a series. Many of my favorite novelists have started out in the first-person before tackling third-person later on (Jason Starr, Charlie Huston for damn sure apply). Some even started out in first-person P.I. mysteries before going third-person in more ambitious crime thrillers. Dennis Lehane had his Kenzie/Gennaro books with Patrick narrating for five novels before he busted us in the balls with Mystic River. George Pelecanos was rocking the Nick Stefanos P.I. mysteries before Shoedog and The Big Blowdown changed the game for him forever. More recently, Michael Koryta pumped out three great first-person P.I. novels about Linc Perry before blowing away anything he'd done previously with Envy The Night.

But my point is this: it took those guys - stellar motherfuckers all - at least a couple/few books before they went after the third-person crime thriller. Dave White has managed to do a damn fine third-person crime thriller only his second time out the gate. I say bra-fucking-vo.

White is flexing his muscles in this book - his deft way with dialogue, his knowledge of every character's motivations, his mastery of the cliff-hanger chapter ending - and he's looking fucking ripped. It is a tight story about a blackmail scam that hangs over the head of Donne's estranged sister and her husband Carter. Some ghosts from the past have come back to haunt the two of them (the past catching up with you seems to be White's favorite noir-ish theme) and soon Donne finds himself wrapped up in a kidnapping plot with twenty hours to go before they off the hostage. Along the way we get a bunch of murders, some explosions and constant reminder of the event that happened nearly seventy years ago that started this whole present situation.

But with all the goings-on and the ticking of the clock, I felt a little miffed about one thing: we don't get nearly enough face time with the tortured Jackson Donne. His and Bill Martin's humanity is what set When One Man Dies apart from the pack, and here we get lots of insight across the board, just not enough of Donne's for my taste. But then how much soul-searching can one man do when he's trying to track down a kidnapper and his hostage? Shit, the poor guy can barely sit and have one of his beloved beers this time out, much less sit and stew on his many flaws. That said, I suppose it's a good thing that you want more insight into a character. It's like saying a movie wasn't long enough - you wanted to hang out in the world for even longer.

The Evil That Men Do is an ambitious book and from the looks of it, so is its author. I hope to see more of Donne in the future (and, if possible, more of Bill Martin) but also know that White is for sure one of the good ones. It is clear that he will not drive Donne into the ground with the same story repeated over and over. No, I am positive he will soon be mentioned alongside the authors I talked about above. Shit, this counts as a mention right here, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Dave White said...

Just caught up with this... Thanks again!