This is the fourth book in the ‘Ellie Hatcher’ series, and the best one yet. I’m also tempted to say that it is Alafair Burke’s best novel (it’s her tenth) but it is definitely my favourite of hers. In the big picture, it is a story about the choices we make and the impact they can have on our future, sometimes only weeks later but often many years hence when we barely remember those decisions. It is also about perception, of how we see the people close to us, the events that affect all of us, and the details we miss, or think we missed, but that come back clearer in a different light. All Day and a Night is about the fragility of family ties and of friendship bonds, and of how we preserve them as best we can, even through our mistakes.
The recent murder of a psychotherapist, in similar fashion as those of five women, twenty years earlier, raises questions about the possibility of having convicted the wrong man. That man, Anthony Amaro, still claims his innocence and says he was forced to sign a confession. He now wants to be exonerated and freed; a big shot television-celebrity lawyer takes his case and hires a young lawyer, Carrie Blank, whose older half-sister, Donna, was one of the previous victims attributed to Amaro.
In come Ellie Hatcher and her partner, JJ Rogan, as the ‘fresh look’ team assigned to examine the old case and to try and find if the murder of the psychotherapist is linked or not to the past victims. It doesn’t take long before Hatcher and Rogan find evidence that was overlooked or even plain ignored in Amaro’s case, but they also come to question the reason behind their assignment.
Lots to digest in two paragraphs? Try 350 pages! But where some writers might have lost me in trying to impress with many plot twists, characters, and too many flashbacks, here Burke keeps a strong hold on the many strings on which she plays her tunes. Some would have ended with a cacophony but Alafair Burke plays a brilliant symphony of suspense and intrigue, even with a few unnecessary flashbacks; except for the last ones involving Carrie Blank which are perfectly introduced into the story, and lead to a crescendo towards an exciting finish.
Musicians know that there are different levels they need to reach while they progress in their learning abilities. Sometimes they can get stuck at a level for many weeks, months, or sometimes years before they break into a higher playing field; it’s even possible to regress once in a while. It is the same for athletes, for chefs, and for writers; in my mind, Alafair Burke has just shattered the door that brought her to a different stage.
Her last Ellie Hatcher story, Never Tell (2012), was already a sharper cut above the previous two in the series, Dead Connection (2010) and Angel’s Tip (2008), which I didn’t think were very strong in intrigue. But her two recent standalones, Long Gone (2011) and If You Were Here (2013), both excellent, might have given Burke a different perspective or the liberty to go where she could not within the boundaries of a series. Whatever the reason(s), Alafair Burke has unleashed her talent in full force –the storytelling, the plotting, the writing, the characterization, the dialogue—and every aspect is cleaner, leaner, and stronger.
Well, read her.
photo credit: Jacques Filippi
Thanks for reading, and Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!