Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review: THE DYING HOUR by Rick Mofina

THE DYING HOUR by Rick Mofina (Mira, 2009)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Canadian Rick Mofina’s absorbing, fast-paced thrillers have gathered widespread acclaim and popularity internationally for many years now, but they’ve only become more readily available downunder in more recent times. THE DYING HOUR, originally published in 2005, was his first book to feature rookie crime reporter Jason Wade, and it’s an absolute cracker.

Wade is part of an intensely competitive internship at the Seattle Mirror, part of a group in a cut-throat race for the only fulltime job on offer, but he’s the only intern not from a high-flying journalism school, and the only one who hasn’t had a major article published yet. A loner who grew up in the shadow of a brewery in one of the city’s blue-collar neighborhoods before putting himself through community college working as a forklift driver, Wade feels out of his depth, and that his dream is starting to drown.

Stuck with the police beat no-one else wanted, Wade needs a red-hot story if he’s going to win the single staff role. He then finds himself investigating the puzzling disappearance of Karen Harding, a likeable college student whose car was found abandoned in the rural Pacific Northwest after having a fight with her boyfriend. When another woman is found murdered in a ritualistic fashion, no-one thinks there is a connection, except Jason, who embarks on a terrifying journey that causes him to examine himself as much as the ‘case’.

THE DYING HOUR is a fast-paced, full-throttle, edge-of-your-seat page-turner that will keep you engrossed both intellectually and emotionally as the pages whir, but Mofina’s writing and storytelling elevates it far beyond expected ‘airport thriller’ fare. He weaves texture, layers and depth into the setting, storyline and particularly the characters.

While switching between the perspectives of Jason and Karen is a device that could fall flat in the hands of lesser authors, Mofina balances things brilliantly, building tension and mystery without ever seeming contrived or forced. More importantly, we aren’t only gripped in an intellectual curiosity sense, but in a real emotional sense. We really feel what Jason and Karen are going through; they’re fully formed people who come alive off the page, sucking us in to what’s happening to them. We’re not mere observers; we are more fully engaged with the very human interactions – good and bad – the characters go through.

As Jason, a flawed but interesting and authentic hero, continues to dig for answers about what happened to Karen and several other women, he begins to see her not just as a story that could get him attention in the newsroom and make his career – a step towards success in a life that hasn’t exactly been littered with it – but something, someone, more real.

Similarly, THE DYING HOUR itself is something more than merely an entertaining and tension-packed thriller with plenty of twists. Compelling and captivating; highly recommended.


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