Sunday, April 10, 2011
Godchild, by Vincent Zandri
Zandri knows despondency. He knows the depths a human being can sink to in the worst of times, when the world around them has crumbled to ashes and nothing is left but dust. He gets it, and he knows how to convey it in sharp, non-sentimental prose.
The protagonist of Godchild, Jack Marconi, is a man who’s lost everything—he has seen his wife die in a horrible car “accident”, and, after several years, he’s somehow managed to put the pain behind him (but only just) and start building a new life for himself. In fact, he’s about to get married again, and the future is looking better than he could ever have imagined.
And then he sees the man—the driver responsible for the death of his first wife. It’s only a split-second glimpse, but it’s enough for Jack’s world to begin veering off again into the danger and moral ambiguity he thought he’d left behind.
Godchild is a sequel to The Innocent, which introduced Jack Marconi—The Innocent is a terrific book, but honestly, Godchild is even better. The pace is faster, the stakes feel heavier, and Jack himself is more fully fleshed out this time. He’s a bad-ass, no question, but a thoroughly sympathetic one. Of all Zandri’s terrific creations, Jack Marconi is my favorite.
Most of the book takes place in Zandri’s native Albany, but one of my favorite bits in Godchild is the strange and extended sequence where Jack winds up in Mexico to spring an American woman from jail—it falls into the structure of the book like a weird dream, with Jack out of his physical element but every bit of him right at home regardless. Even if every other aspect of his life is falling apart, Jack is a guy who knows what he’s doing when it comes to violence.
So what do you have with Godchild? You have an intriguing central character, a twisty-turny plot, relentless pacing, and stripped-to-the-bone style. Near as I can tell, those are all the ingredients needed for a seriously kick-ass thriller.