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THE CONCRETE RIVER
By John Shannon

Berkley Mystery, 1996, $5.99 paperback, 227 pages.

Reviewed by Rick McMahan

John Shannon’s first book, The Concrete River is the debut of Jack Liffey, a man on the downhill slope of life struggling to hang on. His marriage is shot. His house is worth less than what he paid for it and his high paying job is gone. He’s reduced to being a finder of lost children and a sometimes private eye. In short, Jack is a drowning man struggling to keep from sinking the third, and final time.

The plot of The Concrete River is that Liffey is hired by a Mexican lady, the mother of a former client, to find her daughter who’s turned up missing. The missing lady was part of a community political activist group and may have stumbled onto corruption downtown.

In the course of Liffey’s journey, he meets an ex-nun bent on social conscience, cowboy thugs toting machine guns, and a barrage of visions of the chaos and decline of modern life in LA.

Personally, I had problems in places with Shannon’s writing and his plot progression. Shannon has good voice and the ability to keep the sentences flowing, and for the most part the story flows, but the vision blurs with his numerous sidetracked images of 20th Century urban chaos.

I recommend Shannon’s writing, with a word of caution. I liked his writing enough that I picked up his second Jack Liffey novel. It waits on my stack of books to read. Jack Liffey is an interesting character and Shannon has skill as a writer; I am hoping that in his second book he smoothes out his style.

For a reader wanting to try a new author, you may want to pick up The Concrete River.


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