Lamentation by Joe Clifford

Patrick O’NeilSomeday, it would all change. Someday, I would make it right. Only someday never comes, does it? — Jay Porter

It’s hard for someday to come when you live life spinning your wheels stuck somewhere between the past and the present. Such is the state Jay Porter finds himself in.

Ever since his parents were killed in a car accident one winter twenty years ago when their car’s brakes failed, sending them off a bridge into an icy lake, Jay has been stuck in a holding pattern, his life failing to flourish.

A large reason Jay’s stuck in neutral is because of his brother, Chris. A decade older, Chris became Jay’s guardian after their parents were killed. Unfortunately, Chris also became a junkie, a thief and a liar. Now, Jay spends his days working dead-end, manual labor jobs just trying to keep his head above water, all while chasing and cleaning up after Chris.

Jay knows his brother is an anchor on his life—his loyalty to Chris even cost Jay his relationship with his girlfriend and two-year-old son—but blood ties run deep and Jay can’t find it in his heart to cut Chris completely loose no matter how bad he screws up.

Things take an ominous turn, however, when Chris disappears shortly after Jay bails him out of jail, yet again. Right before he went missing Chris was going on about having come across some very sensitive information, information that people are apparently willing to do anything, even commit murder, to keep from seeing the light of day. Now, Jay has to try and find his brother before the wrong people do, while also trying to keep himself from ending up in the crosshairs in the process.

Lamentation, the latest release from Joe Clifford (Junkie Love, Choice Cuts), is a wonderful blend of murder mystery, quest for redemption, and old-fashioned blood is thicker than water tale of the ties that bind. The semi-rural New Hampshire setting is both wonderfully drawn and used to great effect, the brutal winter serving as much as a character as any human player. The Porter brothers are bookends of misery born of circumstance, one choosing to give in to his demons, the other still valiantly fighting a seemingly losing battle. Both are sparked by Chris’s discovery, and as Clifford unravels the secrets their small town is hiding it becomes a race not just to find out whodunnit and why, but to see who’ll come out the other side still standing.

Along the way, Clifford forces Jay to confront some unpleasant truths—about his town and its residents, about his brother, even about the two-decades-old deaths of his parents. It all makes for a nuanced, no bullshit look at the toll long-held secrets can take on one’s life, especially when you start out behind the eight ball both emotionally and financially from the jump. And while Clifford is not one to wrap things up with rainbows and puppies, he does allow that redemption, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, is something that even the most desperate should be able to feel is within their grasp.

Which characters get there? Well, you’ll have to read for yourself to find out. I promise you it’s worth the trip to a little New Hampshire town at the foot of Lamentation Mountain.

Lamentation is available from Oceanview Publishing (978-1608091331).

Joe Clifford writes from experience. He spent a decade on the streets before getting back on track to make writing his life. He is the award-winning author of Choice Cuts, Wake the Undertaker, and Junkie Love. Clifford lives in California with his wife, Justine, and their son.

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