Thursday, January 31, 2008

Midnight on Mourn Street by Christopher Conlon

A homeless teenage girl settles down for the night in a stranger's front yard. But he's not a stranger. She knows who he is. More importantly, she knows what he did. When he sees her in the rain, he invites her in.

She says her name is Mauri Stevens, but that's only the first lie she will tell to get what she wants. The man, Reed Waters, was responsible for a pivotal event in Mauri's life, and she has traveled a long way, looking for ... something.

Reed has no idea what he is in for.

Midnight on Mourn Street is the debut novel of editor / poet / writer Christopher Conlon, and it is a stunner. Not only because Conlon gives us just enough information in the beginning to create suspense that lasts even through the "slow" parts of the story — while we wait for the other shoe to drop. But also because he creates characters who are so real that I was completely immersed in their lives.

When the climax erupted, two-thirds of the way in, I wondered what could possibly be left to tell. But, oh, there's plenty of Midnight on Mourn Street to go. Even though I read it in 2007, this short novel from Earthling Publications is destined to be one of the best books of 2008.

Midnight on Mourn Street succeeds partly because Conlon keeps the cast small, allowing the reader to get deeply involved with two very damaged individuals (though a third does show up to add tension and contrast, and a fourth's presence is felt throughout).

Conlon wonderfully expresses these characters' innermost thoughts and motivations. I was continually impressed by how he truly understood the deeper levels of how one person's actions can change the direction of another's life, while the first remains completely oblivious of this (and is, in fact, still totally immersed in the thoughts that led to the life-changing behavior in the first place).

Whether the way I described it makes sense or not, the way Conlon writes makes it all perfectly clear, though you'll just see Midnight on Mourn Street as an emotionally charged story told by a natural storyteller.

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