25 November 2013

Christmas Book List: Last Witness #nlpoli

Glen Carter’s second novel has had an honoured place on the coffee table chez e-scribbler for the past few couple of weeks.  Dog-eared pages and bits of paper marked the progress through the story that moves smoothly from continent to continent and country to country as it unfolds.

And then the book went on the missing list.

No sign of it anywhere.

No sign, until finally on Sunday evening around suppertime,  15 year old daughter asked her frustrated father what he was looking for.  Oh that, she says.  It was the anniversary Friday and I started to read it.

You know you have a winner when it grabs two readers as different as a middle-aged father and a teenaged daughter.

The blurb for Last Witness says that the story starts with the Kennedy assassination and a missing photographer.  According to the cover notes, there actually is one photographer known to have taken pictures on November 22, 1963 in Dealey Plaza who has never been identified and whose pictures remain a mystery.  Carter took that one detail and ran with it. 

But there is much more to Carter’s imagination than yet another Kennedy conspiracy yarn.  He’s created a compelling mystery/thriller that takes place in the the not-too-distant future.  It starts with the Kennedy shooting but quickly leaves that behind.  Carter weaves together some of the Cold War’s high points along the way.  Some might be tempted to think of Tom Clancy when they read this. Don’t make the mistake.  Where Clancy would have inserted a lengthy aside about V-750 anti-aircraft missiles – also known as SAM-2s or flying telephone poles – and Vietnam and the Middle East, Carter drops in only enough detail to move the story along.  That’s as it should be.

Carter uses a retired FBI agent and a journalist as his key characters.  That’s not surprising given Carter’s professional life as the news anchor at NTV.  But this is not the story of an intrepid hero chasing down the bad guys. The characters – and there are a few to keep track of -  are believable and that makes the story all the more engaging. Carter’s style is lean and very modern:  he changes scenes and characters quickly.  That’s another strong feature of Carter’s story-telling that keeps your attention where he wants it.

If you’ve got someone on your Christmas list who likes mysteries and  modern history this is a book they will be thrilled to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

Last Witness is published by Breakwater and is available online or at your local bookstore.