Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: Mr. White's Confession by Robert Clark

I received this book and read it last year, and somehow managed to overlook it when I was getting my reviews posted. I hope that readers won't make the mistake of overlooking this book - I enjoyed this one very much.

Mr. White's Confession is the story of a series of murders in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1939. Dime-a-dance girls are being strangled and the only suspect is a man named Herbert White. White is an odd little chap - due to an accident at birth, he has no long term memory. He writes a detailed account of his day-to-day life in a series of journals, keeping track of the places he goes, the people he sees, even the foods he eats; otherwise, it quickly fades from his memory. He has a passion for photography - he takes portrait photos of the dime-a-dance girls, who describe him as sweet and shy and harmless - and a hopeless crush on an actress named Veronica Galvin. And yet, he is accused of brutally murdering two women.

This is 1939. There are no fingerprints and no fancy forensic technology to retrieve the killer's DNA. There are only questions and witnesses and thuggish police officers who believe everyone is guilty of something. Poor Herbert doesn't stand a chance.

This is also the story of Wesley Horner, the police lieutenant assigned to the case. His wife has died, his daughter ran off and he's fast becoming a lonely, bitter man, until a teenage runaway named Maggie comes into his life. She gives him something to care about, which is a dangerous thing for a man in Wesley's position.

This story doesn't play out the in the usual detective story format, which is refreshing. The characters are interesting and clearly drawn - I got completely caught up in Wesley's story and his heartbreak. One thing that sticks with me, months after reading the book, is how distinctive the voices were. Horner and his cop cohorts are so far removed from the delicate, naive voice of White's journals, you would really believe they came from different authors. A very well-written, original take on a standard detective story.

My copy of Mr. White's Confession was an Advance Reader Copy; buy your copy at


bermudaonion said...

Wow, that one really sounds good. Thanks for the review.

Literary Feline said...

I'm trying to remember if I have a copy of this one. I think I might. It sounds like something both my husband and I would like. Thanks for a wonderful review!

Dave said...

I liked the characters and writing too. But I was thrown by what happens to Horner's boss near the end. (Don't want to be a spoiler for others, but you know what I mean.) It seemed totally out of character. Did it bother you?

Lisa said...

Yes, I know what you mean. I think he knew what was coming and got out before he got caught. Even though he was a pretty brutal character, he was the one that talked about psychology and getting inside the suspect's head, so I think that had a lot to do with it.