by Jeremy Howe
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Noir
Print Length: 256 pages
Reviewed by Warren Maxwell
An inspiringly fresh take on the traditional crime thriller with coming of age romance and supernatural twists
“Having a job that follows an uneventful, basic routine, is very therapeutic and has helped me immensely with trying to find out who it is that I really am.”
Ever since his step-father, former police chief Doug Lewis, threw him out of the house, Simon Verner has been forced to fend for himself, working his way into a tiny apartment through a strict routine and a job collecting golf balls at the local golf course. Regular therapy, a goldfish named Hank (rhymes with tank), and two loyal friends keep Simon content as he slowly discovers himself inside the parameters of his newly stable existence.
However, everything is turned upside down when uncanny dreams of a cop’s decade old murder begin visiting Simon. Thrust by these visions into Chicago’s corrupt underworld, Simon finds himself compelled to investigate a cold case that no one wants reopened.
“‘Tree-hugger’ is a term that might come to mind for some when they hear me talk this way, but I’ve always tried to be in touch with nature. It’s not the animal’s fault that the animal I happen to be, the human being, likes to spread out and devour the land and its resources like some kind of a virus. Do humans even belong on Earth? Did we even originate on this planet?”
The novel pushes boundaries with its exploration of the supernatural, but remains settled in the distinct realm of crime fiction. Simon’s quest to understand himself and the meaning behind his dreams is aided by Loretta, a fortune teller. Indeed, the dreams are windows into the past, giving Simon access to memories of his previous lives. From an African tribesman to an English queen, his life is indelibly linked to lives already lived, all of which are tainted by a millennium’s old curse. This heady theory of the soul deepens as the central mystery unfolds, adding exciting new dimensions to the straight-forward pleasures of mystery fiction. The writing is workman-like and entertaining, with sweeping descriptions and blow-by-blow action sequences frequently tipping into the cinematic. Shifts between dreams, reality, and the distant past are united by a tactile specificity that readers will be eager to visualize.
“Times seemed so much simpler then; I was just excited to own a car of my own. The dreams of John were just beginning to blossom into the nightmare that my life has now become. My supposed feelings for Jess were taking shape, before Brittany came along and seduced me down a darker path of misery.”
Howe immerses readers in the tense humdrum of Simon’s daily routine, a routine made remarkable by Simon’s dire need of it. Sleeping late one day, going out on a date with a new colleague, buying a sports car he can’t afford—all these normal occurrences fracture Simon’s carefully cultivated system and send him spiraling. Without directly addressing the subject of mental illnesses, first person narration evokes the subtle strain of living with underlying psychological conditions. Like other aspects of this book, Simon’s directness and frank depiction hide a wealth of nuance and ambiguity below the surface.
A euphoric change takes place in Simon when he begins to identify with his former lives. Doubt transforms into grounded maturity, self-consciousness becomes released as humor. Even as the plot focuses on an unraveling crime, readers will follow Simon through childhood’s cruel traumas and into the embracing spirit of adulthood. The stability that Simon has carefully constructed in his outer environment is sublimated into his inner life, making this novel a testament to the human capacity for growth and change as well as fiction’s unique ability to articulate the struggles of existence.
The thrilling story of a golf-ball fetcher who reinvents himself as a dogged agent of justice, Simon’s Dream abandons worn-out tropes in order to create a fresh new take on noir fiction.
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