The Necklace by Matt Witten, Oceanview Publishing, to be published 07 September, 2021
What a ripping thriller!. Susan Lentigo sets off from Maine to try and reset her life by witnessing the execution of her daughter’s murderer in South Dakota. Angry and embittered, she has spent the past twenty years of her life anticipating the day when the monster will face justice. He never admitted to his crime; she hopes that, facing death, he will at confess and she will gain closure.
This was one of those rare books that I couldn’t put down, even though I struggled to like its main character. Susan’s anger was palpable, even scary. She was angry at life, angry at her mother, at her ex-husband, at so many other people around her. She even has a fit of anger at her car – which promptly exacts revenge by dying on her. She does stupid things, things that made me want to grab hold of her by the lapels and yell “Stop! Think!” She’s so raw.
But she’s also authentic, and that’s what drives the book. There are images that stick in her head, and which start to coalesce; there are encounters with strangers which show the victim rattling around inside her shell, and there are odd bursts of compassion.
There is also the bit left unsaid, the bigger picture of execution. It would be all to easy to let that hot political potato take charge of the book and drive the plot from the back seat. Yet, even at the prison gates, when Susan passes two groups of protestors, one for and one against execution, the author keeps the focus on the main plot. This is a combination of judgement and skill I admired: the novel is about the people, not the politics.
So, when it comes out in September, buy this novel. It’s a lot more than a crime thriller. It’s insightful, gritty and hard-baked. A ripper.