Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blood of My Brother by James LePore — 352 pgs

Book CoverJay Cassio and Dan Del Colliano have been best friends since the first awful day of the Newark race riots of 1967. Bound together as tightly as brothers throughout their lives, Jay and Dan remain close, though they live very different lives. When Dan, a private Investigator, takes on a dangerous assignment and winds up dead, Jay goes looking for revenge. But the situation isn’t as easy as that because Dan and Jay have been involved in a serious situation that includes extortion, money laundering, and murder. It’s only when Jay goes rogue to find Dan’s killers that he discovers a crime syndicate based out of Mexico that wants to erase not only him, but anyone else who might be able to implicate them in their crimes. Now Jay is not only fighting them, but also the devious Agent Markey, who has plans of his own to stop the crime bosses using Jay as bait. When Jay discovers that all his hopes rest on the beautiful and elusive Isabel Sanchez, a woman also on the run, the stakes of the game get higher and higher. In this captivating story of one man’s quest for revenge, LePore brilliantly creates a narrative of high action and even higher tension.

A couple of years ago, I reviewed A World I Never Made by James LePore. Though it wasn’t my normal fare, I found the story to be utterly compelling and wound up having a really positive reaction to LePore’s ability to craft an enticing story around characters I truly cared for. It was one of the only books in the crime/thriller genre I was able to fully appreciate, so when I was offered the chance to review Blood of My Brother, I quickly decided I needed to read this latest installment. I knew very little about the book going in, which for me was actually better because it made the story all the more exciting and interesting, and it enabled me to come at the book with no preconceived notions.

One of the first things I noticed was the way LePore shifted his narrative among different times and places. Normally this gets confusing and irritating, but something about the way it was handled in this particular book made me better appreciate the scope of what was being done with the story. In its past and present reflections and its encompassing several characters and places, the story became energized for me, making the narrative seem much more fluid and cohesive than I think it would have been had the story been told from a static and linear perspective.

The characters were greatly nuanced and fully three dimensional, which is also something that really worked for me in terms of this narrative. Though Jay was rather serious, it wasn’t hard to see why Dan’s murder affected him so deeply and why he wanted to take revenge. There were a host of minor characters as well, most of them some type of law enforcement agents, and each one was distinct and carried a weight all their own. I grew to really dislike Agent Markey and came to think of him as a villain in himself, which gave the book a solid feel, for there was more than one perpetrator of evil here. I liked Isabel’s resourcefulness and ingenuity and felt that there was much more to her than your typical damsel in distress. There was a lot going on with her in terms of her importance to Jay, the crime bosses and the law enforcement agents. Everyone seemed to want something different from her that she was loathe to part with. I felt that she was really the crux of the action in the story and all the other pieces really moved around her.

The action was also quite well done, with tensions and dangers mounting with each successive chapter. It wasn’t the type of story that was predictable or laborious to read; rather it was enthralling to try to figure out just what Jay was going to do next, and a few times I wondered if he was going to make it out alive. There wasn’t a lot of plot contrivance and coincidence in this tale to make things turn out nicely for everyone; instead, LePore takes the time to write carefully and inventively to twist the tale to a natural and believable conclusion that readers will appreciate. Each character played their role perfectly, leading to a harmonious and credible conclusion.

I really enjoyed this second foray into LePore’s work. I like that he writes with confidence and skill and that he’s not afraid to take on some daring plot constructions and sophisticated characters. The fact that this isn’t my genre of preference, yet I enjoyed it so much, should tell you a lot about the book itself, and for those who are looking for a really diverting read, I would recommend this one to you. LePore also has a new book that will be released soon called Sons and Princes, and I’m eager to give that one a read as well.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

11 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds interesting. I'm always for a nuanced villain!

Jenny said...

Ooh I love well-written thrillers where it doesn't seem like things just coincidentally happen. Sounds like a great author!

bermudaonion said...

It seems that everyone enjoys LePore's work. I really need to try one since I enjoy a good thriller.

Jenners said...

I was thinking that this seemed different for you. I've not read this author but you've made me want to give him a try.

TheBookGirl said...

It does say alot that you can be so enthusiastic about a book that is not your usual fare. The thing that most impresses me is that you say he does not succumb to easy plot contrivances. Since I don't as a rule read thrillers I am usually at a loss when asked for a suggestion in that area in our bookshop. Thanks to you I can now suggest LePore!

Suko said...

I haven't read anything by LePore, but this sounds really excellent. Thanks for another sharp review.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

So I must add LePore to my wishlist. Your review is very interesting and it piqued my interest. thanks

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

Thrillers really aren't my thing, but your review made me want to read this one. Usually, thrillers are more focused on the plot, so a character-driven one sounds like a breath of fresh air. :)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've not read LePore yet, so I'm even more interested now. It's always a treat when something that's not usually the genre you read draws you right in!

Darlene said...

Not sure if this type of thriller is for me but I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Elizabeth said...

I enjoyed his first novel, also - will have to look out for this one!

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