Many writers turn to crime and edge the mystery genre to its limits with their stunning capabilities that push and pull a plot, twist and turn a narrative, and lay out stories that demand the skills of a grand master of puzzles. They obfuscate and misdirect with the best of them. But few have the genius to infuse their storytelling skills with the pathos, the compassion, and the depths of human behavior in the complicated and braided way Thomas H. Cook weaves plot and character. His novels turn inside out; his characters are revealed in ways that are disturbing yet compelling. His plots swirl with movement and energy that constantly pull the reader backward while pushing him forward.
Am I a fan? You bet. As a reader I am compelled to follow Cook’s dark visions to their bitter end. As a writer I remain in awe of his literary style and storytelling abilities. I recently picked up Evidence of Blood for the second time after having read the book several years ago. Once again I came to the last paragraph, finished the final page and closed the book while exhaling an audible “Wow.”
Evidence of Blood has, on the surface, the appearance of a normal genre mystery. Set in the winding mountain roads of Sequoyah, Georgia, the story is about a poor but gifted boy genius who escaped the town's poverty and became a bestselling true crime writer who is now called home to attend the funeral of his best friend and former sheriff, Ray Tindall. What is played out is a study in human character that is told within the realm of a mystery.
Before he leaves Sequoyah, Jackson Kinley not only discovers why his friend died but also solves what appears to be an unsolvable crime that occurred when he was a child. And in true Cook style, the past and future are as tightly wrapped and impossible to pull apart as any thick wall of kudzu vine. Thomas H. Cook is not just a consummate storyteller, the man can write. And the reader is left with a lingering look at the characters and a rehashing of the story that churns long after the book is returned to the shelf.