Friday, August 1, 2014
Review of Grind Joint by Dana King (Stark House, 2013)
Grind Joint is a tale of a town in decline, local politics, personal rivalries, turf battles, inter-agency rivalry, family relations, and a cop determined to try and uphold law and order in the face of greed, betrayal, and rising crime and poverty. King packs an awful lot into an excellent story, with multiple, intersecting plotlines, and he hits all the right buttons -- excellent characterisation, strong sense of place, good contextualisation, engaging plot, and tight, expressive prose. There are a fair few characters in Grind Joint, but King has a way of quickly presenting their essence and is particularly good at capturing their interactions and the nuances of their relationships. They are not black and white one-dimensional figures, but have depth and resonance. In particular, Detective Ben ‘Doc’ Dougherty is an engaging, thoughtful presence. Moreover, King firmly places the reader in Penns River, a former industrial town that has a declining economy and is struggling to find a new path. The plot is cleverly worked, placing in tension the aspirations of a powerful businessman, the machinations of local government and policing, the ambitions of organised crime, and the thin blue line of an honest cop, a couple of his colleagues and his family. King works that tension to great effect, but sticks firmly to social realism rather than veering off into a thriller with a capital T. And despite the themes of corruption and violence, there’s compassion running throughout the narrative, embodied in Dougherty and his family. If I were a movie producer I’d be looking to buy the rights. A very fine tale that is told very well. Highly recommended.