Five Decembers

Five Decembers – James Kestrel

A few weeks ago, I received an email from publisher Hard Case Crime offering up e-galleys of a forthcoming novel entitled FIVE DECEMBERS, which is due for release later this year.  In said email Charles Adari, founder and editor at Hard Case Crime, called FIVE DECEMBERS “one of our best books ever” and also provided praise from both Dennis Lehane and Megan Abbott (two of my favorite writers) to boot.  How could I say no to a book with those accolades?

I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.

FIVE DECEMBERS begins in Honolulu, Hawaii shortly before America enters the Second World War.  HPD Detective Joe McGrady is sent to investigate a murder on the outskirts of town and upon arrival, he’s treated to a gruesome crime scene.  Believing that the man responsible has fled the country, Joe sets out to Hong Kong in an attempt to track the killer down.  Arriving in early December 1941, Joe’s boots are barely on the ground before he’s accused of a crime he didn’t commit and thrown in the slammer.  Of course, history tells us that by the 7th, the US is attacked by Japan and all hell breaks loose in the Pacific.

I’d really like to stop things there because it’s probably best to go into this one not knowing much more than what I’ve already said.  FIVE DECEMBERS is one of the best modern crime fiction novels I’ve read in quite some time.  It begins with a murder on a small scale and expands into something so much more, while never straying focus far from its central mystery.  The novel’s protagonist, Joe McGrady, is an unremarkable man, but that’s what makes him relatable.  He’s the everyman, the guy you can’t help but sympathize with and root for when things look their most bleak.  The reader is right there beside Joe during every struggle and every heartbreaking revelation.

I’ve used this saying many times before, but FIVE DECEMBERS is truly the definition of a page-turner.  In the acknowledgements, Kestrel states that the original manuscript for FIVE DECEMBERS had tipped the scales at nearly seven hundred pages, but through advice from his agent, he cut it down to just over four hundred.  So, based on that alone, you know this is a tight read.  I often harp on books for being too long and overstaying their welcome, but I’d love to read the full, uncut original story.  Even when the novel’s nail-biting conclusion arrived, I wasn’t ready to be done with it.

I absolutely loved this book and I truly cannot wait for the world to read it this fall when it hits bookstores.  James Kestrel’s FIVE DECEMBERS is an emotionally-charged crime novel shaped by the tragic years of a world at war, a story that is relentlessly hopeful in the face of unrequited devotion and doomed love.

FIVE DECEMBERS is due for release on October 19th, 2021 from Hard Case Crime.

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