A Book Spy Review: ‘Revolver’ By Duane Swierczynski

51KHEXBirAL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgA double-homicide. One shooter. Three generations of children and grandchildren searching for answers.

It all starts when two police officers are killed in cold blood at a Philadelphia bar in 1965. The police figure they have their man, Terrill Lee Stanton, but a lack of evidence keeps them from ever completely proving who committed the murders.

Thirty years later, one of the victim’s sons,  Jim Walczak, who grew up to be a homicide detective, begins searching for answers himself. Then, around twenty years after that, Jim’s daughter, Audrey, decides to look into her grandpa’s murder and unearths a multitude of new theories and potential suspects.

Audrey looks at things from a forensic analyst’s point of view and is by far the most colorful of the three protagonists. The story rotates between the three leads, which is a cool concept but tricky to pull off. Unfortunately, the narrative isn’t always cohesive, and it does get a bit confusing juggling all the moving parts.

The two running themes, regardless of which character is starring in that chapter, are the mystery and investigation of the murders, as well as racial tension. After all, one of the officers who was killed was white. His partner was black. Together they were taking a quick break and cooling down in a bar where, just outside, protesters were gathering in the streets of Philly. Someone supposedly walked in and shot them both. The question, though, is why?

By the time we get to Audrey’s narrative, her family isn’t exactly excited about her digging into the case files, which she does to write a research paper for school. They’ve already lived it all long enough and are ready to finally let it die in the past, where it belongs.

Audrey, though, who traveled home for a ceremony to commemorate a plaque memorializing her grandfather and his partner, views the cold case as a potential career-saver due to the fact that she’s in real danger of being kicked out of school. Through her research, Audrey comes to the realization that the police might have gotten it all wrong fifty years ago.

In the end, this family drama has a real down-home feel but comes up short with the murder case. Swierczynski did a wonderful job describing three different generations, especially in his visualization of Philadelphia and how the city has changed over that time period. But the mystery wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and will leave most readers desiring more. 

That said, there’s far more good than bad, and overall I thought Revolver was a unique and captivating thriller. A tad more substance and creativity would have pushed it over the top, though, as Swierczynski’s latest novel is good but not great.

Book Details

Author: Duane Swierczynski

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

Publisher: Mulholland Books

Release Date: July 19, 2016 (Order now!)

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