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by R.J. Ellory
Overlook Press, April 2013
352 pages
ISBN: 1590205162

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Daniel Ford has been accused of killing his best friend, Nathan Verney, and now awaits execution at Sumter Federal Penitentiary in South Carolina. As the countdown to his death begins, Daniel relates his story to Father John Rousseau.

But long before we get to the murder, which is only detailed toward the end of the book, Daniel tells Father Rousseau about the lifelong friendship between himself and Nathan, who he met at age six - how they grew up together, pulling pranks and defending each other in fights. Many fights - for while Daniel is a white Southerner, Nathan is black, and they grew up amid the racism of the 1950s and '60s.

It's a time of turbulence for America as a whole. The story is intercut with scenes from those times: John F. Kennedy's death, the civil-rights movement, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and the Vietnam War - the latter a very real threat to Daniel and Nathan, who are of draft age.

Slowly, the story peels back the layers of a friendship that is tested and stretched to the limits. Could Daniel indeed have killed Nathan? Or will he be executed for a crime he didn't commit, something tied to bigger issues facing the country?

First published in 2003 in Britain, this novel has only now been published in the United States. It's a gripping story, steeped in emotion and human feeling. Ellory has recently been involved in something of a controversy, but if readers can look past that, they will find a powerful novel that is not only about the crime, but about friendship and justice.

Lourdes Venard is a newspaper editor in Long Island, N.Y.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, May 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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