William C. Whitbeck’s novel, To Account for Murder, recounts far more than just a simple murder. Frankie’s father, the legendary Charles Cahill, is dying and insists on telling one last tale before the end, a Rubik’s cube of a tale where every angle is a different color and every detail needs to shift before it finds its place. The elder Cahill left his arm on the battlefield in World War II. Afterwards he tried to pick up his life and left a dead senator in a field in Michigan.
Old friends and enemies and a brother gather round. Old vultures seek fame and fortune from the investigation while Cahill seeks survival and anonymity. The story unfolds like a 1940’s nourish gangland thriller, with political powerbrokers aiming for some combination of the common good and their own personal greed. But that’s just when the Rubik’s cube turns one way.
In another direction, there’s the strained relationship between Frankie and Cahill, Frankie ever more reluctant to hear the tale; Cahill ever more determined to live to tell. But turn again, and Cahill’s love for the senator’s wife brings curious rays of hope, despair, affection, protection and betrayal, each view revealing another twist and another question on the trail.
Author William C. Whitbeck is Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals. He paints the corrupt legal and political scene of 1940’s Michigan with a deft hand. But it’s the scenes set outside of court, the anguish of love and guilt, of violence, affection, and despair, that raise the story beyond mere courtroom drama. Some relationships fall apart with loss; others separate for a while and then rejoin. But there’s always the danger a relationships will never find its missing truth, like an arm buried long ago in France. Can such associations survive and thrive as if the limb were never missing, never there?
Whitbeck’s novel accounts for the murder of a senator, for murdered relationships and dreams, and for survival in a story, that asks what would you do to save the one you loved. Then the author masterfully saves the story’s best till last.
With thanks to the Permanent Press for letting me read a pre-release copy.
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About the reviewer
Sheila Deeth (SheilaDeeth)
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
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