Book Review : Joe Clifford - Broken Ground (2018)
Pre-Order Broken Ground here (will be available on June 5)
All of you experienced existential isolation before. The feeling that no other human being can comprehend who you truly are, no matter how close you become. Sure, it's depressing, but it's an experience that binds us all anyway. And there is no protagonist in contemporary literature that is alone the way Jay Porter is. The broken down hero of Joe Clifford's novels has battled with psychological demons as hard as he's feuded with garbage human beings over the years and lost just about everyone he cared about in the process.
But, with every new book comes the opportunity of redemption for Jay, which is why I was so fucking glad to pick up the upcoming Broken Ground. I wouldn't let my guy Jay get in trouble alone.
In Broken Ground, Jay Porter meets a woman named Amy Lupus in an AA meeting, who wants her to find her little sister Emily who walked out of rehab and disappeared Amy's a recovering drug addict and it seems like Emily fell down the same rabbit hole. Classic, right? Straightforward detective story. It's always more complicated than that for Jay Porter, who gets improperly briefed, lied to and mixed up into cases that are way too important and dangerous for a single man. In this case, Jay finds out that Emily Lupus has indeed left rehab, but her problems we way more sinister than drug addiction.
My favorite thing about Broken Ground was the evolving relationship between Jay Porter and returning support character Fisher. Not only Fisher has grown past the utilitarian tech guy/comic release role he was originally pegged into, but he's becoming a real friend to Jay in trying times. I don't know if I've seen better dialogue when it comes to exposing what mental health issues are really like. Jay Porter is always narrating in the first person, which gives the reader privileged access to his inner life, but the discrepancy between what's going on inside and how clumsily he expresses it while trying to protect himself rings so fucking true that it hurts.
And it's heartbreaking to see Fisher, who's even lonelier and more miserable than Jay, sticking by him and doing the right thing. Neither or them tells the other what they need to hear, but they're sticking by one another.
That said, I suggest reading Broken Ground after Lamentation, December Boys and Give Up the Dead, if possible. The volumes of a series are usually self-contained (and the first three totally are), but Broken Ground is a little more ambitious than that and starts tying up loose ends from previous novels. Sure, it might be a hinderance for new readers, but it jacks up the stakes so freakin' much that it makes the extra effort of previous novels worth it? It's like season 4 of The Wire or Breaking Bad. Wouldn't have they been so freakin' satisfying if you hadn't watched the previous ones? Of course not. It builds up to a super satisfying climax. Same here.
It won't be a surprise to anyone, but I loved the hell out of Broken Ground. It definitely is the saddest and most tragic Jay Porter novel. But when all the roads lead to tragedy, it would be sacrilege not to embrace it, wouldn't it? The ending of Broken Ground hinted at a potential explosive conclusion in a fifth book, which would make a lot of sense. Going out in a blaze of glory would be the Shakespearean thing to do. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and read the Jay Porter novels. They are about trying to overcome loneliness, dysfunction and trying to do right by your people as much as they are about murder, corruption and conspiracy. These are too good for you to watch the parade go by.