4 out of 4 stars
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"Maybe if we hadn't gone to his house that afternoon, maybe if we didn't want to play football, maybe if Wayne hadn't taken my ball--but we did those things, and Stevie is dead."
In Waves Break (on Unknown Shores) by Barry Litherland, Wayne and Phil witness the death of a childhood friend. Now that they are adults, Phil questions the friendship that often seems one-sided in light of Wayne's reckless behavior, but a bond has been formed. Phil is surprised when Wayne reconnects with another friend from childhood, Tina. As the story unfolds, the past comes back to haunt them. Wayne is arrested as a suspect for burglary, and Phil receives menacing visits from unsavory characters, who are convinced that he can get his hands on the mysterious JAYDEE file. Phil fears he and his friends are in danger, especially when Wayne's older brother, Tyrone, resurfaces.
Litherland pairs a page-turning plot and a cast of well-developed characters to create a thrilling mystery with a hint of humor. It is written in the first-person narrative from Phil's perspective, and the timeline alternates from his childhood years to the present. Both the alternating timeline and the editing are executed flawlessly. The suspenseful plot traverses themes of friendship, betrayal, murder, violence, suspicion, and loyalty.
I most like Litherland's portrayal of Phil; he is humorously self-deprecating and resorts to sarcasm as a defense mechanism. The text is peppered with witty descriptions from Phil, such as: "I reckon he must've been born partially arrogant, because by the time he's nine, it's fully formed. Twenty years later, he's overflowing with it. He's lying in a bath of arrogance and watching it flop over the sides and onto the floor." Wayne first comes across as an unlikeable and unsympathetic character, but he eventually reveals more depth. I also appreciate the presence of a strong female character; Tina is intelligent, resourceful, and supportive.
On the other hand, I dislike the excessive use of R-rated profanity that begins on the first page and continues throughout the book. I appreciate that Litherland seeks to portray realistic dialogues through the colorful language, but he seems to go overboard.
Despite the excessive profanity, Litherland delivers a suspenseful story that will keep readers guessing until the end. I rate Waves Break (on Unknown Shores) 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend the book to fans of mysteries and crime thrillers. It will also appeal to those who appreciate the nostalgia of stories involving childhood friendships. However, sensitive readers who dislike profanity and plot-related violence may prefer to pass on this one.
Waves Break (on Unknown Shores)
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