Wild Justice by Arthur Haberman - A clever title taken from a quote of Francis Bacon:
“Revenge is a kind of wild
Detective Sergeant, Daniel Miller, of the Toronto Police Service Homicide honours his father on the anniversary of his death but it is only a gesture of respect for his father’s faith:
“.... God and I don’t get along very well. As you, I have a very Jewish position on Him. I don’t believe he exists and I argue with him regularly.”
The divorced Miller has an easy relationship with his 14 year old son, Avi.
Miller’s family is modern Orthodox Jewish rather than ultra-Orthodox. Despite his comments about God he keeps a kosher kitchen though he is less concerned about Jewish dietary rules when he eats out.
A 42 year old veteran officer Miller has a new partner in Detective Constable Nadiri Rahimi. She is in her early 30’s and a new detective.
A genuine surprise was the revelation that Miller plays the violin in an amateur chamber orchestra once a week. One week they are practising Vivaldi’s Sinfonia in C Major. His son refers to him as a Mozarthead.
In what might be a surprise were the book set in America the new detective team work two weeks before they investigate a murder.
A doctor recommends to a deeply troubled unnamed 37 year old man that he needs to develop a new program to change his life. He decides to seek out the men who committed “unspeakable acts” upon him 25 years earlier.
James Frawley, a 40ish Catholic school teacher, has been beaten to death in his apartment by a chair. He also has broken fingers. He appears to be a “secular monk” who wears rough uncomfortable hair underwear and self-mortification. He is a member of the Opus Dei.
There are short excerpts involving the unnamed man set on vengeance.
Another murder comes their way. Halima Nizamani is 20 when she was strangled and thrown off the bluffs in Scarborough. Her Pakistani father was unmoved by her death. He had cast her from the strongly Islamic family saying she is no longer his child for adopting Western ways.
It was unusual and intriguing how there is a start to a thoughtful examination of the lives of the average and the devout in three faiths - Judaism, Catholicism and Islam. Few works of crime fiction delve into the actual practice of faith in the 21st Century.
There is a good book in the concept. I think it would have been better had the story of the unidentified vigilante killer been dropped and the plot focused on the differences between the faith of the faithful, including doubters, and the rigidly devout.
I admired there were family suppers where those present enjoyed themselves and had discussions that ranged from the routine to the serious.
I appreciated that Miller, unlike obsessive fictional detectives, such as Harry Bosch does take time off and is encouraged to have days away from work.
At least at the start it is almost a textbook on investigation - precise procedures are followed.
It was interesting to have cases that did not involve the central mysteries. Those cases made the book more like the life a real life detective.
The narrative does drive toward a conclusion.
There are no apparent flaws in anyone but the murderers. There is an earnestness to all but the bad guys that is uncommon in crime fiction. While I dislike books devoted to dysfunctional characters there are few paragons in the world.
Unfortunately, the dialogue does not always feel natural. Still Haberman does have a vivid statement on the why of a murderer:
“I had nothing for all this time. I wanted something. I thought if I could
act, then I could ….. I don’t have the words …. lose the past.”
The resolution was abrupt and not convincing to me.
I think there could be a series for Miller like the Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series but Wild Justice is not there. It is a good first novel. I think I would read another in the series to see how Haberman progresses as a writer.