4 out of 5 stars
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Written by Jim Davidson, Tree of Redemption follows the life of Chris Hamilton as he works to unravel the mystery behind his friend’s death. After arriving in Laredo, Mexico, Chris’s first task is to pay his respects to the family of his deceased friend and mentor, Armando ‘Chico’ Guerra. He is at first in awe of the majesty of the Guerras's family home, but he is completely thrown for a loop when he is told by Eduardo that Chico’s death was no accident. Seeking justice for Chico, Chris sets out to investigate his murder, dredging up old family secrets and a decades-old feud. His journey takes a more personal turn when he solicits aid from an unlikely source: his estranged father, Michael. The two men form an unexpected bond as they right both recent wrongs and ones that date back years before.
The progression of the plot is believable, appropriately paced, and underscored by the overarching themes of forgiveness and redemption. The characters’ emotions and reactions to certain events weren’t overdone. In particular, I liked the slow build up of Chris’s relationship with his father. The dynamic wasn’t shrouded in a fairytale reunion filled with empty platitudes and tearful blaming; rather, two adult men came to learn about each other and put to rest the mistakes of the past in their resolution of an arguably greater issue.
I loved how the characters within the book were written. Michael and Chris were the undeniable stars of the show. The former’s backstory was revealed in fragments at crucial parts in the story, transforming the initial impression of him from a deadbeat, absent father into something more promising. Chris’s characterization was also refreshing, in that, in the narrative, statements about him were free of empty testaments to his machismo and his supernatural attractiveness to women—the latter being kept to a tolerable minimum. Something about Speedy, a supporting character with sporadic appearances, held a level of fascination for me, especially his eccentricity, strange resourcefulness, and penchant for rendezvous in creepy cemeteries.
At first, the title of the book didn’t seem to hold any significance. I assumed it to be a throwaway title that wasn’t imbued with meaning. It’s one of those rare cases where the name of the book is neither completely unrelated to the story nor is it explicitly pointed out. The word ‘redemption’ can create in readers the belief that some religious aspect exists in the story; despite this being somewhat true, it only plays a small part in the overall plot, making the story enjoyable for readers outside of whatever doctrines or belief system they might subscribe to.
While I do believe that the book has been professionally edited—the quality of writing clearly attests to that—I do not think it was done as thoroughly as it could have been. This was because I found numerous objective errors within the text. Some of these could be overlooked, but others—like the misspelling of Chris’s name in the last few pages—could not.
The combination of all these factors has led to my final rating of four out of five stars. The one-star deduction can be attributed to the number of mistakes I found in the novel. Otherwise, the structure, pacing, plot, characters, thematic elements, and more came together for a fantastic telling of a story worth rereading.
Tree of Redemption will be a great fit for lovers of murder mysteries led by a mostly male cast. People who enjoy stories about complicated family bonds, relationships, and pasts should also give this book a try. Most of all, I think the style of writing will appeal to more mature audiences, in part due to the novel’s erotic and profane content and also because of the subtler adult themes such as understanding and forgiving one’s parents for their actions.
Tree of Redemption
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