Book Review: Around the Edges
Reviewed by Kathy L. Brown
Delve into the details of the criminal justice system in this engrossing series of interlocking investigations
Content Warning: Rape
Assistant District Attorney Whitney Horowitz is young, smart, and driven to dispense justice. Currently, she’s focused on the H-Block Gang. The first half of Around the Edges deals with the courtroom drama inherent in a gang member’s murder trial, but the investigation takes on new heights when the gang attempts to rattle Whitney and undermine her ability to try the case successfully.
The novel weaves several plots into its ambitious narrative: a perhaps not-so-random killing of a young police detective as she ventures into the H-Block Gang territory, a missing person case, the brutal murder of a homeless man, and a police detective’s failing marriage.
There’s a frame to the story as well—a slowly revealed psychological horror tale involving poet Thomas Mooney where he’s sequestered in his remote Maine seafront vacation home to drink himself into a hallucinatory oblivion and unpack his despair at his wife’s recent death. Mooney’s story later plays into Whitney’s saga in a satisfying way.
Around the Edges is a literary thriller about how a young law enforcement professional finds the strength to continue the struggle—the big fight, not just the case we see here.
It may be an intermingling of multiple plots, but it’s also particularly character-driven. The personal dynamics among the district attorneys, cops, and their families are at least as important as the crimes they investigate, keeping things lively and readers invested in the characters.
Structured as interlocking tales, each focused on a different point-of-view character, Around the Edges lacks the typical always-escalating tension of a thriller. While not a problem, this choice obscures the story question. Halfway through the novel, it still isn’t clear who the protagonist is, which plot line is primary, and what overarching problem the book aims to address. The book opens with Mooney and his extreme grief, making his story seem to be the primary focus. Action then moves to Boston and district attorney Whitney Horowitz. Initially, her arc asks “How will Whitney win the gang murder case?” but she soon has even larger problems.
The police work and courtroom maneuvers are detailed and quite convincing, a glimpse into a behind-the-scenes routine that will feel novel for many readers. Visiting a “new world” in a story is a treat. Around the Edges doesn’t disappoint.
This book takes great care with language. Each shift in point-of-view brings a change in tone, cadence, and vocabulary that well-suits the narrative. For instance, poet Mooney’s language is evocative and figurative. “He also noticed that the wind had steadily been growing all day, groaning out like the distant slumbering breath of some massive, unseen creature.” The police speech, on the other hand, is down-to-earth, terse, and sometimes profane, yet each individual cop has their own unique voice.
The world of Around the Edges is harsh and violent. Generally, that atmosphere is evoked without lingering on disturbing details of the various crimes portrayed. However, the police investigate a brutal home invasion/rape/murder near the end of the book; some readers may find that scene disquieting and out of keeping with the generally PG level of the rest of the story.
All the characters in this novel are convincingly real, and women take leading roles. In Whitney’s opening scene, she goes toe-to-toe with defense attorney Arthur Gourdine, who seeks to undermine her in every way possible, both in and out of the courtroom.
“‘Is Gourdine really gonna go over your head?’
“She shrugged. ‘I really don’t care. He can try to act like I’m a little girl and go to the boss-man all he wants, but Ruben’s not going to undercut me.’”
Readers who enjoy behind-the-scenes crime and the intricate details of police work will find this story engrossing. The characters are convincing and memorable and should extend well beyond the next books in this promising series.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Print Length: 340 pages
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