Tag Archives: dual narration

A haunting serial killer novel with spirited pacing and surprising twists

The Bricklayer of Albany Park, by Terry John Malik. Blank Slate Press. 342 pages. Trade paperback $16.99.

A psychological thriller with a strong dose procedural detail, Mr. Malik’s debut novel is the surprisingly solid achievement of a man who had never before attempted fiction writing. Its success is largely dependent on an impressive amount of well-integrated research, a masterful understanding of Chicago, and an equally keen grasp of extreme mental illness. The author provides plenty of surprises for his readers, as well as a torrent of suspense. 

Most of the novel is presented through two alternating perspectives. One narrative voice is that of Detective Francis (Frank) Vincenti, a once-aimless young man who has become a stellar investigator for the Chicago Police Department. In this way he was unlike his childhood friend, Tony Protettore, who was constantly preoccupied with thoughts of joining the police thoughts.

Readers learn of Frank’s odd friendship with and training by ex-cop Thomas Aquinas Foster, his CPD partnership with Sean Kelly, and his disastrous marriage to Beth – an aspiring lawyer.


The other narrator is simply known, through much of the novel, as Anthony. A serial killer who hunts down, punishes, and eradicates child molesters, Anthony is a meticulous planner (though sometimes his plans go wrong). Mr. Malik provides the gory details of Anthony’s crimes and stresses the killer’s interest in being celebrated for his work in cleansing Chicago of those who exploit children. Anthony stages his murders and the places where the mutilated corpses will be discovered. He thrives on publicity, and he bates the police officers, who efforts to protect children are insufficient. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 9, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 10 Naples, Bonita Springs, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Bricklayer

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Satisfied vengeance casts a pitch-black glow

Black Hammock, by Michael Wiley. Severn House. 192 pages. Hardcover $28.95.

With his newest and noirist thriller, Michael Wiley pretty much forsakes traditional detective story plotting and follows a protagonist on his personal vendetta. The protagonist, Oren, has gathered up a small group of his well-armed friends with the goal of murdering his mother Kay and her husband Walter. He wants it to be a slow, painful death. He is sure that the couple, who have a home on isolated Black Hammock Island in northeastern Florida near the Georgia border, had killed his father, Amon Jakobson, eighteen years ago, effectively abandoning Oren to an uncertain fate when he was only eight. BlackHammockCover

A local Sheriff’s Office detective, Daniel Turner (for whom Mr. Wiley’s mystery series takes its name), has had a continuing interest in the unsolved disappearance of Amon that is stirred up by the arrival of Oren and his vigilante crew. Because Turner is identified with Jacksonville in Wiley’s earlier Turner novels, Black Hammock is no doubt to be imagined as part of the Jacksonville/Duval County united government. How Oren executes his plan and how his actions affect others are the novel’s principle centers of interest. Bringing to life a rural, off the grid culture is another. Revealing the hard life of Amon is a third.



Mr. Wiley handles his exposition by alternating two narrators. One is Oren, telling his own story (and his father’s) in his own way, at once humorous and threatening. The other is Lexi, the eighteen-year-old bookish daughter of Kay and Walter, who is looking for her chance to get away from the tawdry life at Black Hammock. Lexi’s concern about the future of her mentally disabled younger brother, Cristofer, has probably kept her from leaving the island.

In having Lexi tell her side of the story that begins with Oren’s arrival (he keeps his identity a secret through most of the story), Mr. Wiley allows her to stand in for the reader. Her questions and suspicions about what this strange, intelligent, erratic fellow is doing by invading her home directs the reader’s interest, sympathy, and judgement.

For each narrator, and for the other important characters, Mr. Wiley has developed a distinctive voice. In fact, the book’s impact in large part comes from its frequently over-the-top dialogue. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the June 8, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 9 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Black Hammock.

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