Jawbone Lake by Ray Robinson

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Jawbone Lake by Ray Robinson

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Steve Shayler
Reviewed by Steve Shayler
Summary: A son goes on a journey of discovery to learn more about his father and why he may have been murdered, meanwhile the one witness to the murder deals with her guilty conscience and her own personal loss.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: January 2014
Publisher: William Heinemann
ISBN: 978-0434022038

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Rabbit is a young woman with plenty on her plate and New Year’s Day brings her a lot more worries. Rabbit witnesses a car careen off a bridge into a lake (with fatal consequences) whilst being pursued and is then seen herself by the pursuer. The victim of the crash was a larger-than-life man called CJ and we follow his son Joe as he deals with the event and attempts to rediscover who his father was.

Rabbit doesn’t report what she witnessed and lives in fear after fleeing the scene and the man responsible. She is a character of great depth and is struggling with tragedy in her own life. Her personal demons come in the form of the loss of her infant son a few months before and her emotions and feelings are moving and thought-provoking. Throughout the story, Rabbit attempts to return to ‘normal’ life and put her loss behind her, whilst also dealing with the almost crippling fear of being found by the man responsible for the death of CJ. Her thoughts and actions and the relationships she forms with friends and a new lover all feel very genuine; the accident she witnessed is only a small part of her role within the story and she comes across as an intelligent and thoughtful person rather than a plot device.

The story is split between Rabbit, with her worries and attempts to bring happiness back into her life, and Joe as he struggles to deal with the loss of his father and the discovery that the man may not have been who he believed he was. Joe is intent on discovering more about CJ and answering some awkward questions that have arisen after his death. He discovers a lot more than he expected and comes to truly know the side of the man that his father kept hidden from the family, a man involved in a much more dangerous community and a man with enemies that might just mean that his tragic death may not have been an accident.

Joe’s search for answers takes him to his father’s villa in Spain and on a journey of discovery into his dad's past. Joe is in effect the detective of this story but thankfully that doesn’t mean that this seemingly regular guy is now a Sherlock Holmes type figure. He remains a very real character and all the revelations he uncovers are reached in ways that are never farfetched and in some cases are even rather mundane. Joe doesn’t become able to tell instinctively when a person is lying or pick up on minuscule clues leading to an elaborate solution to mysteries, he is a son asking around about his father and hoping that his father’s many friends can tell him more about the man than he knows himself.

Ray Robinson has written a very human novel in which nearly everything is expertly understated, the whole scenario is very real and the priority is the emotions and thought processes of the people involved. It is quite possibly the least thrilling thriller I have ever read and in this case, I say that as a massive endorsement. There are revelations and conspiracies (of a sort) but the impact of these is primarily upon the individuals we follow and us as readers, making the whole experience of reading this a whole lot more personal. The characters and storyline are completely absorbing and all of the drama is handled brilliantly making the novel seem almost like a true-life account. If I have one minor gripe it is that the solution and climax felt a little premature and it almost interrupted Joe’s storyline cutting it short and making it a little less satisfying. That said it fit the tone of the book well and was an unconventional way to conclude a murder mystery in an unconventional thriller.

Jawbone Lake is a very deep and poignant tale that had me hooked from the start. There is no melodrama, little in the way of plot twists and almost no action and as a result, it feels incredibly real and believable. It is an emotional read with exceptionally well-crafted characters and a lot of heart; I thoroughly enjoyed it but would warn those who love thrillers that this is far from the usual fare.

Another brilliant story where the crime involved is much less important than the lives of the characters is Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda. We also have a review of Forgetting Zoe by Ray Robinson.

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Buy Jawbone Lake by Ray Robinson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jawbone Lake by Ray Robinson at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Jawbone Lake by Ray Robinson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jawbone Lake by Ray Robinson at Amazon.com.


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