A beaten homeless vet. Three cops gunned down. A multistate manhunt. The trial of the decade.
A new kind of legal thriller
When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down.
A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase.
Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers gets there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture.
Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?
There is so much to admire in this book, everything from its clever format of essentially being three exciting stories in one, to the difficult issues it tackles, to the excellent and atmospheric writing.
N Lombardi Jr doesn’t hesitate to shock us in his writing, although never gratuitously so. He gives us a good shaking just by presenting us with contemporary injustices and discriminations that are going on around us and that we’d normally prefer to ignore. The callous neglect of war veterans suffering from PTSD is the main subject under scrutiny, but police brutality, social intolerance and summary justice all get a big look in.
The two pertinent crimes in this novel – the beating to death of war vet Jay and then the shooting of three cops – occur early on, and the majority of the book deals with the aftermath of these awful events. We follow the flight of the chief suspect, Donald Darfield, and then his capture and trial. The latter might appear to be less than exciting, but trust me it isn’t. There’s a lot of tension and excitement during it, and throughout your blood pressure just keeps going up in response to the bigotry and deceit that crops up!
We meet some fascinating characters in the book, from Jay himself, whom we get to know from flashbacks to the past, to his comrade Donald, to the strong doctor, Tessa Thorpe, who counsels the troubled veterans, to the eccentric, controversial defence lawyer, Nathaniel. They’re all so unique, so human, so convincing.
This powerful, compelling book has a startling ending. That’s all I’ll say!
It’s the first in a series, and I can’t wait to read more by this excellent author. His imagery, characterisation and creation of scenes and settings are all amazing, and despite an overall impression of understatement, as in there’s no unnecessary sensationalism and everything is so carefully, methodically constructed, this novel is one of the most impactful I’ve come across in a long time.
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About the author
N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).
In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net
His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.
His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.
Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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