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A Welcome Murder

by Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books, April 2017, $15.95

Meet Johnny Earl, former Major League Baseball player turned cocaine dealer. Earl is just out of prison, looking to get his hidden stash of drug money and split town to start a new life somewhere far away from Steubenville, Ohio. His plan and fortunes take a downward turn, though, when the FBI informant who helped send him to prison turns up murdered and Johnny is arrested as a suspect.

The use of the first-person point of view is a time-honored way of telling a story (Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels being just one prime example), and Robin Yocum gives readers not just Earl's, but four other major characters' first-person narratives as well. As the story unfolds, Yocum slowly reveals that the victim is someone everyone wanted dead, and that each character, from the local sheriff to Johnny Earl's lunatic ex-girlfriend, has their own motive for committing the crime.

From their personality quirks and character flaws, there's a seeming level of honesty coming from each one's point of view, particularly when they describe their failings. No one seems deluded into thinking that they are better than they actually seem. It says something about this particular group of people when the most "honorable" person in the mix is the one who just got out of prison.

With five different points of view to keep track of, the story inevitably reads more like entries in a rather twisted version of a diary instead of a murder investigation. When the actual killer is revealed, the denouement is less about whodunit and more about why they did it. Yocum's commentary on human nature and gritty nature of the story's setting may leave readers with the urge to take a shower after the resolution to the book. Anyone with a need to believe in heroes will surely have that belief tested by A Welcome Murder, as there are no heroes here.

Jay Roberts

yocum awelcomemurderA gritty and dark crime novel featuring a Major League Baseball player turned cocaine dealer.

Teri Duerr
April 2017
Seventh Street Books