Five Decembers by James Kestrel [8/10]

Five Decembers” has just won the Edgar Award and within a few pages of the start, one can see why. Author James Kestrel (a pseudonym) writes in commanding prose that places the reader in the depths of every scene. Always in control, never in a rush to progress a plot. In December 1941, Hawaii detective Joe McGrady, his mind full of love, is dispatched to a gruesome murder scene. Before long he is on a plane to Guam and thence to Tokyo, just as World War II comes to Asia. Beginning as a straightforward police procedural, the novel morphs into a wartime hell chronicle, before emerging postwar into a tale of revenge and justice. McGrady is a superb hero, resolute, practical, yet full of yearning. With its expanding canvas and its Cormac-McCarthy-style thematic backdrop and its stylistic surety, Five Decembers is a worthy award winner and will surely surface in the year’s lists.

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