Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Blood Knot - John Galligan

Holy Mackeral!*

What if the William Faulkner who wrote mystery short stories for Ellery Queen and the William Faulkner who wrote fine novels about dysfunctional American families were one and the same person? Well, he'd be John Galligan**. Galligan, with elegant prose, manages to do something that I would never, ever have guessed in a million years. He managed to write a mystery with a quirk to it*** and make it a top notch novel. This is transcending the genre - not that the genre needs transcending mind you, I like it just fine - this is a novel that can be enjoyed by anyone who can enjoy good writing.

The plot concerns Ned Oglivie and down and outer who is just trying to fish for trout. That's all he wants, but then there's a murder and people want him to look into it and, most importantly, there is a pretty much insane bunch of people who surround him - the Kussmaul family (Cuss 'em all?) who are a lot like the Snopes but in concentrated form. In fact, more than once I thought I was reading "Barn Burning." That's a story that I love, and this is that good.

Can Olgivie save a young boy from ruining his life? Can he save a mother from heartache? Can he get to the bottom of who killed the one person who might have been sane in the town? Can he ever get a chance to actually fish? All these questions are answered before the book draws to its close and you really do care what the answers turn out to be. The interesting thing is the short amount of time it takes Galligan to make you care. I was hooked (yes, sorry yet again...) after about five pages.

The quality of the prose is also striking - I have found that some mystery writers (and other genres as well literary writers) don't always take great care with their writing at the sentence level - the story may be inventive enough, but there is nothing special about the sentences that convey the story. With Galligan, each sentence is polished to brilliance. Easily one of my favorite reads of the year.

This, mind you is a novel that I read on the recommendation of the good people at CrimeSpree . They also recommended Sara Gran's Dope. Excellent stuff. The Galligan novel confirms that the CrimeSpree know what they're doing when it comes to liking books.

* Sorry for the near-pun.
** He'd also be William Faulkner, of course, but you get my drift...oops! Somebody stop me.
*** Like gardening novels, quilting novels, gourmet chef novels, et cetera, et al, ad infinitum.


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