I noticed author Alex Finlay last July when investigating Joyce Carol Oates' claim that "first novels by young white male writers" were being rejected unread by publishers. Due to whiteness and maleness. Controversial claim! My test was to look at a couple articles ("15 Best Debut Authors of 2021" from GoBookMart and "10 best debut novelists of 2021" from the Guardian) to discover they were pretty low on young white guys. Specifically, 20%.
Finlay appeared on GoBookMart's list on the strength of his novel Every Last Fear, deemed "a perfect spine chiller". Finlay's website has more raves. So I put that on my "Get At Library" list.
But in the meantime, his second novel, this one, appeared at Amazon, the Kindle version going (at the time) for a mere $2.99. I hit that "Buy Now" button so fast…
Sorry for the long-winded explanation. I don't know why I think other people would be interested in my haphazard methods of book-picking. On to the book:
On New Year's Eve 1999, the Blockbuster Video store in Linden NJ, is about to close up. Unfortunately, before that can happen, most of the staff are stabbed to death, leaving a sole survivor, Ella. A suspect is named (bad boy "Vince"), arrested, released for lack of evidence, and then vanishes, assumed to be on the lam.
Then, years later, another knife-based slaughter occurs in the Dairy Creamery, a late-night Linden ice cream store. Again, there's only one survivor, Jesse. Ella has become a therapist. And she's called in to help Jesse deal with her trauma.
Complications abound. Ella's a therapist, but she's overly fond of booze, pills, and sex with strangers. Jesse's an aspiring journalist, but she likes to live on the edge herself. And remember vanished Vince? Is he back, and up to his old mass-murdering tricks? Maybe, but since 1999, his brother Chris has escaped their abusive dad, gotten adopted, has become a public defense attorney, and gets assigned to defend the accused in the Dairy Creamery murders.
And then there's FBI agent Sarah Keller, who's eight months pregnant with twins, gets roped in on the investigation. She and her partner Atticus Singh have a marginal role: see if Vince could be the perpetrator of this new horror. They do not remain marginal.
And many more. It's a twisty plot, involving many characters, many murders, Dickensian coincidences in addition to the ones mentioned above. Finlay does a pretty good job of pulling all this off; it's a definite page-turner. (Or, on my new Kindle, a screen-poker.)