"The Violet Hour" by Daniel Judson
Minotaur, 293 pp., $25.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Let's cut to the chase and say that thrill-spiller (and Shamus Award-winning author) Daniel Judson's fifth novel sports many a wild ride and plenty of wind-in-the-face chases.
"The Violet Hour" will snag your interest with the story of a young auto mechanic and the fistful of friends toward whom he manifests an intense loyalty, given the violent losses of his father and his older brother, Aaron. His mother predeceased them all.
Understandably, then, Cal Rakowski has sought stability and calm through a routine consisting mostly of work. He's coasting along, restoring expensive foreign and classic cars and living above a three-bay garage in Spartan rooms.
Cal (an allusion to "East of Eden" and its character of the same name is apparent) has been on cruise control for four years, when all hell breaks loose on Halloween. Not that there are any trick-or-treaters making the rounds at the secluded garage near Bridgehampton, New York.
Setting the stage for the drama is the arrival of Heather Pamona, a restaurateur for whom Cal and Aaron used to work. She has ditched a wealthy, domineering husband who is anxious to reclaim her and-- more to the point-- the child she is carrying.
Heather, however, proves the tip of Cal's iceberg. He is really going to the mat-- an apt metaphor, given his high-school wrestling-- for his coworker and Friday-night drinking buddy, Rebell, who has a seriously interesting past in Manhattan.
Cal knows nothing of that, but he is rushing through a crash course, as it were, burning rubber all over the Hamptons.
There's a juxtaposition of the ultra-rich and comfy Hamptons village lifestyles with the seamy actions of people flying under the radar: those who have grown up on "the wrong end" of Long Island, or those seeking anonymity in the seasonal shuffle between the resorts and the nearby metropolis.
It's author Daniel Judson's longtime stomping ground, and he presents it with road-marker details. Because of Cal's concerted efforts to overcome a difficult past, the reader naturally roots for him as he is pulled deeper into the undertow of seemingly unfathomable intrigues.
Indeed, his character still has miles to go before he can sleep (as if all the bartenders in Southampton don't know his name and his connection to Rebell) and may thus, we hope, surface in an encore opus.
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