Published April 4, 2017 by Seventh Street Books
After his unspectacular professional baseball career ends with a knee injury in Toledo, Ohio, Johnny Earl gets busted for selling cocaine. After serving seven years in prison, all he wants to do is return to his hometown of Steubenville, retrieve the drug money he stashed before he went to jail, and start a new life where no one has ever heard of Johnny Earl.
However, before he can leave town with his money, Johnny is picked up for questioning in the murder of Rayce Daubner, the FBI informant who had set him up on drug charges in the first place. Then his former prison cellmate shows up–a white supremacist who wants the drug money to help fund an Aryan nation in the wilds of Idaho.
Five memorable characters, each with a separate agenda, come together in this layered tale of murder, deceit, and political intrigue.
Can I just say that Robin Yocum’s books have the best book covers and titles I’ve come across in a long time. There is something about the colors and haziness that draws you in and when coupled with the intriguing titles just beg you to pick up the book. I mean we all say we try not to judge a book by it’s cover but it’s so hard when it’s the first thing you see and his are just tops! I recently reviewed his Edgar nominated novel A Brilliant Death which you can read here if you missed that 5 star review, so I was really looking forward to starting A Welcome Murder.
The novel is set in the small Ohio town of Steubenville, which being an Ohio native and still living here, I have never been to Steubenville although I have drove through nearby areas now and again. I absolutely love that Yocum sets his books in a small town which, coming from one myself, I know have their own little ways of operating. We are first introduced to Johnny Earl who, fresh out of a seven year prison stint for drug dealing, realizes he’s going to be the prime “person of interest” in the murder that’s been committed. Not that he cares about the victim, he just doesn’t want to be sent back to prison. I have to say, I liked Johnny and I liked the flow of the story with him narrating. He’s one of those characters who’s done some really stupid things but there’s something about them you still like and want to root for…that’s Johnny Earl for me.
The story continues with four more alternating perspectives telling the tale. There’s Sheriff Francis Roberson who was a friend of Johnny’s in high school, Dena Marie (Johnny’s girlfriend in high school), Vincent “Smoochie” Xenakis (town wimp who’s currently married to Dena Marie ), and Allison who’s currently married to Sheriff Robinson. Whew…a lot of alternating first person perspectives right there and although the author successfully manages to tie everyone together and keep the loose threads from tangling, the many alternating perspectives lost me for a couple reasons. One…I really only connected with Johnny and Francis and I would’ve been happier if the book just alternated between the two of them. In fact, I really disliked the other 3 characters, especially “Smoochie” who’s name and character I found somewhat annoying. I also found the complete personality shift for him to be over the top. Second, I felt like just when I found a rhythm to the story it would again change to a different perspective which left me feeling a little frustrated. I think this boils down to personal reading preferences and I just prefer less narrators.
While the five alternating perspectives didn’t work for me, what I did enjoy was the fantastic dialogue which the author seamlessly weaves throughout the novel that created such realistic conversations which kept the pace fairly quick. This, coupled with the fact that I had my detective hat on the entire time trying to figure out which person was the killer and why, effectively kept me on my toes which I liked. I’m happy to report that my theory of ‘whodunit’ was completely wrong…I love it when that happens! Robin Yocum fooled me again and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Many thanks to Robin Yocum and Cheryl Quimba from Seventh Street Books for my copy of A Welcome Murder. I’m happy to provide an honest review.