Review: "Turnabout" by Jeremiah Healy

by Jeremiah Healy
Leisure Books, 2005


Turnabout—which was originally published by Five Star in 2001—is an appealing, slow-paced, and surprising crime novel by the author of the John Francis Cuddy mystery series. Matthew Langway, a former FBI agent turned Boston private detective, is in a bind. His partner has been siphoning money out of their partnership and, worse, he has been stealing from their clients. So, with a desperate need for cash, Langway reluctantly agrees to investigate the kidnapping of the mentally-handicapped Kenny, the great-grandson of a wealthy former U.S. Army general, Alexander Van Horne. Langway’s reluctance comes from Van Horne’s insistent that the authorities be kept out, but the promise of a $10,000 payday convinces Langway to take the job anyway.
     The estate’s security is top-notch—cameras, guards, alarms, fences, and gates—which leads Langway to think the kidnappers had inside help. A notion supported by the rapacious Van Horne family; every one of them residents of the estate where Kenny lived and with something to gain from the boy’s death.
     Turnabout is fascinating and literate, but its unhurried pacing and dark nature may put some readers off. The thematic focus on the past, particularly old secrets, is reminiscent, while not quite as satisfying, as Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books. A similarity that kept me turning the pages until the narrative picked up about a third of the way in. Along the way it becomes clear nothing in Langway’s world is simple and obvious. Everything is suspect. Then the climactic scene—with the surprise of a swinging axe—twists into a marvelous, almost breathtaking, surprise.
     Turnabout is set in the late-1980s and—keep in mind this is all speculation on my part—it was likely written about that same time. Healy (perhaps) was unable to find a publisher, or he simply put the manuscript away and went on to other projects. But then Five Star—known for publishing “trunk novels” by established mystery writers for the library market in the early-2000s—brought Turnabout out in 2001 and a few years later Leisure Books issued a mass market reprint. But no matter Turnabout’s history, I’m glad it had a public life because the characters, the story, and the complex ideas about morality and ethics, or the lack of any, keep dancing long after the final pages are done.

Click here for the paperback at Amazon.


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