Blue Avenue, by Michael Wiley. Severn House. 224 pages. Hardcover $28.95.
How noir is it? Very. Black on black. Mayhem and murder prevail. Mr. Wiley’s Jacksonville is a place where one encounters an amazingly high percentage of individuals who mete out or receive abuse, suffering, and death.
Yet, for all the gore and the gruesome rationalizations for evil deeds, the novel is highly magnetic. Gorgeously written with copious sensory detail, “Blue Avenue” attacks our complacency, makes us wish we could turn away from the novel’s norm of brutality, but has us trapped in our own voyeuristic thrill-seeking, tempting us to condone what deserves condemnation.
This is a very fine piece of imaginative writing about very bad people who, unfortunately, we are given the tools to understand. At some level, we are like them. Thus we accept them. Worse, we feel sorry for them.
William “BB” Byrd inherited from his father four gas stations that keep him economically afloat. His real business – actually more of an avocation – is vigilante justice.
BB and is wife Susan occupy separate bedrooms in the home they share with their teenage son, Thomas. Love has been distorted into a bitter accommodation to BB’s disturbing needs. His wife Susan withholds intimacy while BB withholds honesty, security, and fidelity.
BB dreams of Belinda Mabry, the beautiful black girlfriend of his teens. She was an extravagant risk-taker. Belinda, who moved from Jacksonville to Chicago with her parents and disappeared from BB’s life, never disappeared from his thoughts. Now, twenty-five years later, BB learns from Lieutenant Daniel Turner, police detective and former playground friend, that she is dead. (The series is named for Daniel Turner. I haven’t yet figured out why.)
Belinda was found trussed in a peculiar position, wrapped in cellophane, and tossed in a pile of trash. Daniel asks BB to identify the body. He does so, almost vomiting at the gruesome sight. He learns that Belinda is the third in a series of serial killings with the same M.O. The other two women had frequently been arrested for prostitution.
Early in the novel, we learn that BB is a man with a shady reputation, capable of almost anything. Because of the long-ago connection with the Belinda, he could be considered a suspect. When he phones Charles, a man he hadn’t spoken to in eight years, Charles – who shouldn’t know enough to ask – says: “This about Belinda Mabry?” But Charles is the kind of guy who knows about everything dark and ugly, including BB’s deeply troubled past that includes a homicide charge. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 11, 2014 Naples Florida Weekly,the December 17 Fort Myers edition, and the December 25 Bonita Springs and Palm Beach/West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Wiley