For a perfectly executed mystery a reader need go no further," People magazine said of John Wessel's first novel. Now readers can revel in the highly anticipated third novel from Wessel -- a heart-racing story of secrets and suspense featuring hard-luck ex-PI Harding and his stunning and fearless girlfriend, Alison, who are about to confront their past...
When Alison's former lover is found murdered in a small lake town near Chicago, she and Harding shrug it off as an incidental tragedy. But the discovery of a suspect -- the runaway fiancé of Alison's best friend, Beth -- drunk and disoriented, in the very town where the body was found, seems more than coincidental. Harding can't shake the suspicion that Alison may know more than she's letting on. Harding's own brushes with the law have left him without a legitimate private investigator's license, but his fear that Alison may be in danger just as quickly ensures he's back in the game, implementing his unauthorized services -- a scenario that proves dangerous at best, impossible at worst.
As the body count rises and the cadavers get closer and closer to home, the noose around Alison's past draws tight, and the stakes grow intensely personal for Harding. Even as he unearths a past for Alison he'd rather not see unburied, he knows he must beat back his jealousy and suspicions about his longtime lover in order to find a ruthless killer -- before the killer finds Alison.
This Far, No Further (1996) and Pretty Ballerina (1998), Wessel's first two books about a Chicago ex-con named Harding, got a lot of attention for the lively writing and the nasty, kinky plot twists. In the author's latest, the writing is still sharp and quirky, but the level of horror and twisted sex seems to have given way to a definite aura of romantic nostalgia (albeit tinged in proper shades of noir). Harding, a closet academic and private detective who lost his license when he did a manslaughter stretch for some overzealous revenge, is an interesting if not totally original blend of brains and brawn (can you say Spenser?), and his relationship with Alison a fellow University of Chicago grad who now runs a women's gym has some of the distinctive edges of Dennis Lehane's dueling lovers. Adding to the familiarity is the rock music constantly echoing in the heads of the book's characters including the title, quoted from an Eagles song when poet Charles Muller tosses Harding a couple of lines from Shelley as a taunt which might remind readers of how much better it works for George Pelecanos. Even the plot the murder of a young woman who lived, along with Alison and Muller, in a U.C. dorm called Grand Terrace ten years earlier reads like something we've heard before. Wessel is a writer of considerable style and courage, but his imagination seems to need a recharging.