Hello! Hope you’re all doing well, it’s Heather here, posting a quick review on the crime novel Caina by Joe Albanese.
Author: Joe Albanese
Published: May 2018
Publisher: Mockingbird Lane Press
Length: 174 pages
Brief Description (from Amazon)
Twins tend to be closer than typical siblings. They often share a bond that is oftentimes unexplainable.*
For some reason that bond didn’t apply to Grant and Lee Tolan. Grant was always the responsible one. Lee, on the other hand, was always in trouble and in jail, self-destructing to the point the twins hadn’t seen or spoken in years.
In trouble with the Irish mob who wanted him sleeping with the fishes, finding Grant dead of an apparent suicide, Lee did the only thing that made sense. He switched identities.
Instead of making life easier, Lee is plunged into a world the Irish and Italian crime families, the Mexican cartel and the DEA. Pitting one against the other, Lee enlists the help of friends to save his own life. He will need a miracle.
But Grant’s secret is the biggest shock of all for Lee and he must re-evaluate his entire life.
*Maureen Healy, author of Growing Happy Kids.
Anyone familiar with Dante’s Inferno may already associate the word Caina with the Ninth Circle of Hell and, more specifically, treachery against kindred. That pretty much sums up the main plot. Despite being twins, Lee absolutely loathes his law-abiding brother Grant. However, after discovering his corpse, Lee finds himself impersonating Grant and realises that he may not have been as much of a goody-two-shoes as Lee had anticipated.
As a person, I don’t know if Lee and I would have been besties. He’s irrationally bitter over his brother’s success, immature, totally unsympathetic, spends too much time dallying about in illegal matters and is generally very selfish and rude, though I appreciate how much he cared for Angela and Clare. However, as a character, I found him refreshing. I cannot count the number of crime novels and shows centred around yet another random busybody that feels like meddling in something that has nothing to do with them but, despite their complete and utter lack of experience or qualification, are granted access to the crime scene and solve the entire thing in less than a week. Or that good old detective with a long, swishing coat and ominous tone laced with sarcasm. To be fair, I normally rave about how wonderful these characters are (the nosy meddlers and very-serious detectives feel like family) despite the blatant stereotypes but nonetheless, Lee was a welcome change of perspective.
The flow of the plot was good. I never thought I’d encounter a character that would come across their (admittedly estranged) identical twin brother’s body and, rather than grieve, pretend the corpse was their own to trick a gang and take on the deceased brother’s identity without thinking it far-fetched but this proved to be an exception. It’s like a twisted, criminal version of The Pretty One. Lee is just so… Lee that I have no issue with the plot here. However, I did find the excess of gangs a bit much. Personally, I’d have preferred just one or two gangs with more focus on each member of the gang and their background. Instead, the reader relies on a brief description of the majority ethnic group of each gang and the names of the most important members, which can get a little confusing towards the end. The highlight of the plot for me has to be the ending. Albanese really built the everything up well and I was concerned I’d be disappointed but found myself pleasantly surprised. My main question to the author is whether a sequel is on the horizon? I feel like the ending lends itself to another book and I certainly wouldn’t protest reading another novel in Lee’s narrative voice.
I found there were very occasional typos, like a few haphazard speech marks that must have been missed over the editing period, but there weren’t enough for this to be an issue when reading. I also thought the cover of the novel perhaps a bit too dark and serious looking for a crime comedy but looked very smart even so. Aside from that, the formatting was good – the font was slightly larger than average, making it a joy to read, the blurb describes the novel perfectly etc.
Albanese's strongest skill in this novel would have to be his creative use of perspective. I've already mentioned how interesting Lee was as a narrator, but I haven't spoken much about Grant. We learn so much about Grant without even meeting him when he's alive. He comes across as a hard-working and loving man and I found it quite endearing how he cared about Lee and tried to support him despite Lee's stubborn dislike of him. Naturally I found it irksome how Lee showed very little sympathy towards poor Eric, who was clearly close to Grant, but again, that's just... Lee. Overall, I did enjoy this book despite the slight confusion over the numerous gangs.
That’s it for today, folks. Let me know what you think of Caina if you’ve read it. I’ll be back next month with a review for a memoir on addiction.