I recently did up The Ninth Step by Grant Jerkins and thought it was a ridiculously assured piece of character-driven crime fiction, exactly the type of shit I like to read. Though I like to keep it current (that TBR pile won’t read itself!), I decided to go back and check out his debut novel and boy-oh-fucking-boy is the Nerd glad he did. A Very Simple Crime is a very creepy, twisty thriller of legal and psychological parts that is ultimately something all its own.
Adam Lee has a violent, mentally retarded son locked away in an institution and a mentally unstable wife who has locked herself away in their lavish Atlanta home. When he brings his son home for the weekend and ditches out to stay at a cabin with his mistress, finding his wife’s head dented in with an ashtray should have been expected if not outright premeditated. At least that’s Leo Hewitt of the district attorney’s office figures, but nobody’s listening to him after he botched his last big case. But the more Leo looks into the case things only seem to get murkier…
Jerkins has plenty of slick surprises to unveil and hits a lot of notes courtroom drama fans will love, but he really comes alive when bringing us into the heads and disturbing pasts of Adam and his brother Monty. Their sad childhood has made them the damaged, possibly murderous men they are today, and Jerkins is happy to dig into it and get plenty dirty in the process.
The opening third of the novel is a first person account from Adam of the time leading up to his wife’s death, the middle third a third-person account of Leo looking into the murder, and the final portion switches between the two perspectives, with plenty of flashbacks happening throughout. This structure not only allows Jerkins to show off his considerable prose capabilities line-by-line but also deepens and knots what could have been a more straight-forward, traditional thriller.
Basically the Nerd is trying to say that this is some first-class storytelling, dear reader. Even if you’re usually (like yours truly) a down-and-dirty noir junkie who thinks they could give a shit about anything even approaching a legal thriller, A Very Simple Crime has enough disturbing, dark-night-of-the-soul shit within to keep you ripping through the pages. If you find I’m full of shit I’ll gladly let you take a swing at my melon with a massive fucking ashtray.