Walter, Jess. Land of the Blind.

NY: HarperCollins, 2003.

Spokane police detective Caroline Mabry is back, but it’s not so much her story this time as that of the one-eyed Clark Mason, haunted by his past. He turns up in Caroline’s life one swing shift, having been picked up in an empty hotel that’s undergoing reconstruction. In the interview room, he insists he has a homicide to confess to — but only in his own way.

And so he sits down with a stack of legal pads and a pen and begins writing, and it’s his story we follow throughout the book. Not the usual format for a “murder mystery,” but it works very well.

Clark grew up in the Valley, the respectable blue-collar part of town, though he later escaped to the dot-com world of Seattle. He had a generally unpleasant childhood, thanks to several bullies in his neighborhood, but not as unpleasant as Eli Boyle, the quintessential loser, whose sort-of friend and defender Clark becomes. The cast also includes Dana, with whom Clark falls in love and stays in love for several decades, and Dana’s husband, Michael, a real piece of work, and several supporting players. And as we follow Clark’s life up to the present, Caroline (who hasn’t yet read his confession) tries to pry clues out of him, wondering if there really has been a murder, and haring off around town in search of a possible body. The pace picks up toward the end of the book and eventually reaches the point of white knuckles, so if things seem too slow to you in the beginning, . . . well, just be patient.

This second novel is quite different from Walter’s first one but it’s very, very good, and for almost entirely different reasons. This would also, I think, make a terrific film.


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