by Simon Hall
eARC, 352 pg.
Read: August 30 – September 2, 2019
Hope is the true immortal in life. It never leaves us and it never dies. Sometimes, hope’s gentle voice might be drowned out by all the noise in our lives. But find a hidden corner, listen hard, and you will always hear the quiet song of hope.
A man known only as Ed gathers a large number of people with only a small newspaper advertisement about hope. From that meeting, four strangers embark on a campaign to restore hope to others and themselves via an unusual startup enterprise. Then what starts off as a search for a compelling human interest story, becomes a heartfelt search for a neighborhood’s missing pets, and then turns into something with life and death consequences for a handful of people and something that stirs a nation.
I don’t want to say more about the plot than that brief paragraph—the details of Hall’s story need to unfold slowly for you as you read the book. I spent a lot of time wondering how this qualified as Crime Fiction at all. I didn’t really care about the answer, because I got sucked into the narrative right away and was thoroughly enjoying the book, no matter what genre it ended up being. It does end up as a very compelling Crime Novel, but it takes its time getting to that point. The Editor is a book better experienced and read than explained, so I’m going to be a lot briefer than normal.
Hall’s typically an engaging author, with characters that you like despite not liking the way they always act, and can really tell a story. But in The Editor he pulls out all the stops and adds some extra “writerly flair” to the text. Lines like:
That small hiccup overcome, however, the story not only settled in their laps but purred happily in the process.
And Florence, despite her sad experience of how life could always find a way to confound her, smiled. Optimism was always one of the toughest drugs to quit.
add that je ne sais quoi that elevate this novel.
And then he’ll make you smile with things like this reaction from an elderly woman:
‘What do you think should happen to whoever might have taken George, and the other cats?’
‘Death!’ Elizabeth declared, with all the certainty of her soul. ‘I never understood why we abolished the death penalty in the first place. Here now, if ever there was one, is surely a case for bringing it back.’
There’s a very real sense in which you won’t (and cannot) figure out what’s really going on in The Editor until the end when Hall tells you. It’s frequently an annoying trait/trick when it’s pulled. But if it’s done correctly, it can be very satisfying—and Hall does it perfectly. But I’ve gotta say, even when the curtain is drawn back and the metaphoric Wizard is exposed, I was far more interested in the stuff that didn’t have to be revealed—the story itself, prima facie, is what matters most. It’s what’s going to leave a lasting impression on the reader. The other stuff is interesting and (again) well-executed, but it’s not as important as the rest.
And really, when is the central theme of this book not something that you can use?
“There’s still hope. Of course there’s still hope. There’s always hope. Feel it. Live it, breathe it…”
I think Hall’s TV Detective series is a lot of fun, and one of the things that’s bugged me most about 2019’s reading is that I haven’t made more of an effort to catch up on that series. But this? This is a special kind of book that bears almost no resemblance at all to the other Hall works I’ve read—it’s effective and affecting, inspirational and singular, wholly unexpected. You’ve gotta grab this one.
My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the novel) they provided.