Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not Even Past by Dave White - Book Review

From the publisher: Finally, Jackson Donne has it figured out. After giving up on the private investigation business, he's looking toward the future--one that involves getting married to Kate Ellison. Kate’s got him focused on living the good life: planning the wedding, finishing college, and anticipating a romantic Hawaiian honeymoon. Until an anonymous email with a link and an old picture of him on the police force shows up in his mailbox. And once Donne clicks the link, nothing else in his life matters.

Bill Martin has it easy. The police detective spends his time drinking coffee and chasing down people who don’t pay their parking tickets. The plan is to keep his head down until his pension kicks in and he can live the even-easier life. That all stops the day Jackson Donne shows up at his office.

When Jackson Donne clicked on the link, he saw a live-stream of the one thing he never expected to see. Six years ago, his fiancée, Jeanne Baker died in a car accident with a drunk driver. Or so Donne thought. Because when his web browser opens, he’s taken to a video of Jeanne bound to a chair, bruised and screaming, but very much alive.

He starts to investigate, but quickly finds out he’s lost most of his contacts over the years. The live-stream has stopped working. The police hold a grudge that stems back to the days when he turned in his corrupt police colleagues, and neither they nor the FBI are willing to believe a dead girl’s been kidnapped.

As his investigation goes down one blind alley after another, Donne’s obsession with finding Jeanne grows. He begins pushing everyone away. Kate, seeing all he’s worked slipping away, begs Donne to tell her what’s going on. And when he refuses, she’s left angry and with no choice but to leave him. Vulnerable and alone, but unable to stop looking, Donne turns to Bill Martin--the only man to love Jeanne as much as he did—for help.

And that decision could cost Donne everything.

Not Even Past, by Dave White, has been a long time coming.  The first two books in the Jackson Donne series came out 7 or 8 years ago.  They were both terrific mystery stories, and after reading the Donne short stories, I waited for the next novel.  Finally, White has given us the next installment.  And it's pretty good.

Jackson Donne is a former cop, former P.I. who is finally getting his life back together six years after the death of his fiancee, Jeanne Baker, and even more from when he turned in his fellow vice detectives for selling and using drugs (including himself).  He has gone back to school, fallen in love, and is a few shorts months from getting married.  Then he gets an email and discovers his ex is alive and being held captive.  Upon discovering this, Donne does the only thing he can think of; he calls his former partner - now bitter enemy and rival for Jeanne's love - Bill Martin.  What follows is a series of double-crosses and conspiracies that encompasses Hurricane Sandy recovery, the New Jersey university system, the mob, and a state senator.

White's prose is easy to digest, his character interactions are well done, and he does a great job of giving the reader a visual of the New Jersey neighborhoods that Jackson Donne inhabits.  Additionally, Donne is a very well-developed character and I was anxious to see what happened to him following the events of the previous book in the series.  White also brings the rivalry between Bill Martin and Donne to a head, with heated results.  Not Even Past saw him transitioning from his old life into a potentially new one, with room for continued growth if White sees fit.

While enjoyed this book, two things kept it below the level set by the two earlier stories. The middle of the book drags out; there is a lot of spinning of wheels without much seeming to happen. It felt like this section really put the brakes on the momentum that was developed in the early stages. Second, the pop culture references seemed a little forced. This is a small, picky thing, I know, but the first two books were so good that White set the bar extremely high.  These weren't big enough things to keep me from reading any further Donne novels, but they served to pull me out of the story at times.

I would recommend Not Even Past to readers who enjoy noirish mysteries. Donne is a great character, and the New Jersey setting is different from similar stories that are available.  However, I would start with the first two books. The short stories are also worth tracking down online.

I received a preview copy of this novel from Polis Books in exchange for an honest review.

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