Friday, 15 July 2016

Book Review - Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus




A man with a consuming addiction. A woman who talks to God. And the secret connection that could destroy them both… Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins. A complex, page-turning psychological thriller, riddled with twists and turns, Epiphany Jones is also a superb dark comedy with a powerful emotional core.

Epiphany Jones is not an easy book to read. This isn't a criticism but the subject matter means there's dark then there's Epiphany Jones dark. So it was a book that took me a while to read, every so often I had to leave it for a bit to process my thoughts. The main protagonists in the book, Jerry and the eponymous Epiphany aren't straightforward characters, they are multifaceted, frequently unsympathetic and hard to like. Jerry has a serious porn addiction, the story is told through his voice and he is an unreliable narrator who has suffered hallucinations (his figments) since the death of his younger sister. At first he appears to be violently misogynistic and it is a testament to the author's writing that as more is gradually revealed about Jerry's past I came to not only sympathise with him but to actively root for him as the 'hero' of the book. Epiphany is a fascinating character, I don't want to give too much away here but she is a brutal yet vulnerable enigma and for me the novel is at its strongest when she appears.
Jerry is forced to go on the run after his colleague is murdered (a camera tripod through the eye) and he is prime suspect. Epiphany holds the key to his proving his innocence but she demands his help first and he is drawn into a murky world of violence, blackmail and child sex trafficking. It is the child abuse that makes this book hard to read, the author pulls no punches. His writing is searingly honest which given the hideous subject matter really should be applauded. It would not be right to gloss over such heinous crimes and Grothaus ensures the abuse is described as horrifically as it should be. However, the book is still darkly comic at times, particularly when the author uses razor sharp wit in exposing the superficiality of Hollywood and the cult of celebrity. Epiphany Jones began as I book I wasn't sure I'd like, as the layers of secrets and lies were stripped away I found myself drawn in - albeit needing to take a break occasionally - and by the denouement I was in unable to put down territory. It's an extraordinary book, raw, brave and does what fiction at it's best can do - it shines a light on those dark recesses of society and forces us to confront the truth that behind the glamour is often something far more sordid and seedy. It's a book that will stay with me for a long time.
Epiphany Jones is published by Orenda Books and is available in the UK now. Many thanks to the publishers for my advance copy.