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Dave White
The Evil That Men Do
Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2008

Three Rivers Press / Random House
US First Edition Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-0-307-38279-5
287 Pages; $13.95
Publication Date: 06-17-2008
Date Reviewed: 07-08-2008

Index: Mystery

Following his well-received debut Jackson Donne PI novel, 'When One Man Dies', White crafts another satisfyingly nasty noir tale that affirms, once again, that the sins of the past often spill into the present and when that happens, it's rarely a good thing.

Donne, White's series character, stripped of his PI license and grieving the death of his wife Jeanne, who was killed by a drunk driver, finds his only solace downing beers at the Olde Towne Tavern. He is contacted by his sister Susan, whom he hasn't seen in years, with concerns about his dying mother and the disturbing stories she is telling about crimes some 60 years past. Susan wants Donne to investigate and unearth the truth; Donne wants nothing of it. Susan's husband, Franklin, offers payment; Donne takes it and thus embarks on a complex, dangerous and deadly exploration into the family's past.

The narrative unfolds in two parallel stories, one set in the present and the other, the Joe Tenant story, set some 60 years in the past. While readers know these stories will ultimately intersect, White invests each with twists, turns and disturbing shifts so that the path to conclusion is both surprising and suspenseful. Neither story is black and white. In each, some otherwise good guys are driven to do bad-guy things, some good guys die, and some bad guys don't. At its heart, this is a novel about family and about having "to fix what the people before you did wrong".

White's prose is clean and stripped down as befits this classic noir novel. His pacing is brisk and he's mastered the art of morphing dread into suspense and ultimately into fear to keep the reader turning pages hungrily. While much of the plotting is not new to noir readers, White whips up the energy level and tosses in an unexpected twist or two to keep things fresh. What might otherwise be yet another dark tale of cross, double cross and triple cross surprises and succeeds in White's sure hand.

Donne is becoming an increasingly engaging series character, a flawed but basically good guy who finds himself — well, maybe puts himself — into heaps of trouble, often violent, and occasionally deadly. At novel's end, Donne has abandoned the beer, re-engaged with his family, and plans to go off to college to make something of his life. Readers can only hope that college doesn't get in the way of Jackson Donne PI taking on more investigations, licensed or not.

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