Friday 8 October 2021

NEAR DEATH by Richard Wall @writinblues

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Twitter; I'd seen a few tweets about it from the author, then one day I took a look.

In a Nutshell: Murders most brutal, with a paranormal theme.

The story is set in the early 1960s in New York and rural South Carolina.  John Henry Beauregard, a Korean War veteran, is working as the chaplain in Sing Sing prison, when he is called to give last rites to Joseph Hickey, a vicious murderer whose crimes were so horrific that details are withheld from most.  Hickey taunts John, and promises that he'll see him again, even though he is about to be frazzled on Old Sparky.

As other similar murders begin to take place, John and his friend, NYPD cop Eugene, begin to explore possible theories that sound insane even to themselves.  They are both psychologically damaged and at times just trying to hang onto the threads of their lives.

I enjoyed this book all the way through.  Throughout the main story, mostly told by John in the first person, are short chapters that hint about why events are taking place, with the reader being left to piece it all together, gradually.  The pace and drip-feeding of information worked so well, and made the story a real page-turner.  Lots of unpredictable events; I do love a novel in which I can't guess what's going to happen.

The characters of John and Eugene were very likeable, as was Vinnie, the hard-nosed lawyer who flips the bird at convention and authority, and I loved the writing style, which was clear, simple and effective.  I only had one problem with it: 'black', as in the colour of a person's skin, was spelled with a capital B in most but not all cases.  I know this is favoured by the politically correct in this day and age, but it was not so at the time John was telling this story, and it looked out of place.  Similarly, John uses the phrase 'people of color', which was not introduced and popularised until at least a decade later.  I wouldn't usually nit-pick about stuff like this that wouldn't bother most people, but they really stood out to me.

Paranormal is not my usual genre of choice, but it totally worked in this story, seeming possible and believable, and I liked the author's take on what happens after death.  The book is clever, humorous in parts, touching, terribly sad and fairly brutal, with gory and shocking detail, so it's not a book for the faint of heart.  I'm very glad I stopped on that tweet, clicked the link to Amazon and downloaded it on Kindle Unlimited.  At some point I shall take a look at the rest of Mr Wall's work.  Nice one.


  1. You do indeed make this sound very tempting and I like books that challenge the reader to keep up! Have you read The Hive?

    1. No, but I looked it up! I do think I'd like it - generally I don't like crime novels when they're from the detective's POV (I can never get interested in all the unravelling!), but this does look good :)