Blood Relations by Jonathan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free advance copy from the publisher for review.
Lee Crowe is the kind of private investigator who isn’t above taking a shady job from a defense attorney as part of an effort to intimidate a federal witness. While working on that project he comes across the body of a wealthy young Claire Gravesend who fell from a roof and smashed into a Rolls Royce.
Damn, but the rich even get to die in luxury.
Claire had been acting oddly before dropping out of sight. The police are calling it a suicide, but her mother isn’t convinced and hires Lee to find out the truth. Investigating Claire quickly proves to be dangerous business, and when Lee makes a shocking discovery things really start getting weird.
One of the things I loved about this one is that we start with what seems to be a gritty neo-noir tale about a morally ambiguous private detective, and that’s the thread that’s maintained even when the story starts shifting into other territory. While there are elements of other genres brought in, the style and themes are constant throughout the book.
That really works because the main draw here is the character of Crowe who we eventually learn is a disgraced former lawyer who was once on the doorstep of real wealth and power, but he lost it all once his well-connected wife got bored with him. Now Crowe seems to have few lines he won’t cross like after discovering Claire’s body he takes a picture and sells it to a tabloid for a nice payday.
Despite apparently having no moral code we see throughout the book that Crowe is more complex than a guy willing to do any dirty job for money. Having once had a glimpse behind the curtain of privilege to see how rigged the game is he has no compunction about cheating himself. Even as he’s willing to work for the benefit of the wealthy there’s also resentment simmering in the background, and once he starts learning the truth about Claire Gravesend he’s capable of outrage and wanting to see some justice done.
Jonathan Moore has very quickly become one of my favorite writers, and I think this is his best one yet. There’s some very slick genre fusion going on here along with good character work, and the plot makes it a compulsive page turner. But I think the most impressive thing is how he creates an almost dreamlike atmosphere at times, and yet also blend that with much more grounded elements. This is most definitely a hard boiled crime novel in tone, but there are also scenes that would be right at home in a David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick movie. It’s an intriguing mix.
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’d also highly recommend all these other ones by Moore:
The Poison Artist
The Dark Room
The Night Market
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