Reviewed by Carolyn Martinez
Vengeance is Now
(The Tate Holloway Series)
by Scott D. Roberts
Perfect Paperback: 305 pages, May 1, 2013, ISBN-13: 978-0989136006
Any writer who’s had their screenplays optioned by Warner Brothers, Paramount and Columbia, as has Scott, is going to know a thing or two about writing. Particularly writing that keeps an audience returning TV episode after TV episode. But can a screenplay writer craft a good novel? As a reviewer, books show up in my letterbox and I know I must read them soon to turn them around in a reasonable time frame. Occasionally it’s a chore. Vengeance is Now arrived in my letter box on a Friday. I picked it up after work. On Saturday morning I opened it, intending to read the first chapter to see what I’d be in for. By Sunday morning I’d finished reading the whole book. It’s one of ‘those’ – those rare books that you can’t put down until you get all the way to the end.
It’s good when the good guys are good, and the bad guys are bad, and they lose. But it’s BORING. Yes, I want a satisfying conclusion, but I also want the characters to be real, complex human beings with history, flaws and depth of character. People who try to be good but don’t always get it right. Additionally, I want to be treated like the intelligent reader I am. I want the chance to follow tantalising clues and work things out for myself, before the writer stages the ‘big reveal’. I want to know if I’m as smart as I think I am. It sounds an easy formula, but anyone who’s actually written a novel length piece of work knows how hard it is to do successfully.
Scott nailed it. Well, almost totally nailed it. He did something on page 245 that I wish he hadn’t. But I’ll leave it to other readers to read the book for themselves and see if they agree with me. Some might like his placement. Spoiler alert: do not flip ahead to page 245 to see what I’m talking about before you read the book. Doing so will destroy the story for you. Come to it in your own time. For me it was like a really good session with my husband that lasted 18 minutes, but should have lasted 19 minutes to be absolute perfection. You know, really, really, really good all the same, just a tiny tinge of a wish that he’d hung in there just a minute longer.
The first line of the book is a clanger, “you’ve never really lived until you’ve seen the life leave another human being.” Right from the get go I wanted to know what these characters were going through. What they were thinking, feeling, and experiencing.
I was thoroughly engrossed in the life of Scott’s lead character, Private Investigator Tate, a former detective kicked out of the force in disgrace who does do some PI work, but in actual fact earns most of his money as a male escort. Endearingly, he starts struggling to ‘get it up’ when he realises he’s fallen in love. He hasn’t told the woman he’s fallen for how he actually earns a living. Feeling a measure of guilt, he matter of factly sticks to tongue pleasures with his clients rather than the more traditional form of pleasure. As I said earlier – a real person. Real people don’t always do the right thing, and guys classicly behave in just this manner, sticking their head in the sand and hoping a problem will disappear of its own accord.
The good guy is complex, flawed, real. He’s also a damn good cop who’s never got over the death of his partner on the job. When he finds himself incorrectly identified a murderer, and the subject of a nationwide manhunt, he doesn’t get lucky to get away, he gets smart. When he gets the chance to avenge his partner’s death, I was with him all the way.
The bad guy is successful, unsuccessful, flawed, powerful, weak – again, a real person. Scott allows us into the bad guy’s life in a way that lets us understand why he is the way he is, but also let’s us hate him all the same. This character is truly evil. Scott let me understand the evil mind, but not quite empathise with him.
Then there’s Tate’s office lady, Rita. An engaging, intriguing, surprising character that I fell in love with, but still don’t know all the answers about even though I’ve finished the book. Suspense for another book perhaps? Works for me. After all, Scott is a series writer. He knows how to keep us coming back for more.
There are more characters cleverly revealed, and wonderfully drawn into the story. Throughout the book, the sophisticated set-up needed a sophisticated bad guy, and Scott didn’t let me down. I didn’t see the ‘big reveal’ coming. He successfully surprised me.
I thoroughly recommend this book for a great weekend at home to put your feet up and transport yourself to another world. But oh, understand that these characters are all real and real things happen to them. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Congratulations to the author, Scott D. Roberts, on a great first novel.