Forgiveness is the most attractive of the virtues. Until you actually have someone to forgive.
When Melissa Stonelea’s born-again Christian husband Grant is found strangled in the bondage room of the city’s classiest brothel, a page of the Bible stuffed in his mouth, she doesn’t need to hear more of her pastor’s sermons on the healing powers of forgiveness. She needs revenge.
Enter private detective Johnny Ravine, seeking the quiet life in Australia after more than twenty years as a freedom fighter in East Timor. The murdered man was his best friend. But, as he starts to investigate the slaying, a mysterious phone call and then a bullet through his window plunge him into the heart of a deadly terrorist conspiracy.
Suddenly he finds himself locked inside a shady world of stock market manipulators, sex workers and underground militia, while desperately hunting the killers. But Johnny is concealing a violent past and demons of his own. Can he crack the mystery before he himself cracks?
In Johnny Ravine we have a brilliant, but flawed hero who is plunged into the far reaches of the human psyche - forced to confront a cycle of evil that could destroy him and all he loves. But also forced to confront the evil that lurks in his own heart.
This is the first in a new series by Martin Roth. Told in the first person narrative by the main character, Johnny Ravine, a half Timorese (mother), half Australian (father) ex freedom fighter (during the fight for East Timor becoming an independent country from Indonesia).
This has all the hallmarks of a Roth novel. Well researched, fast paced, strong spiritual themes (in this case forgiveness and learning to cope with loss and the letting go of the past), characters you can relate to and Roth's unique style of showing the Gospel message and related tenets without being preachy.
Using the first person narrative by the main character, really does allow the reader to understand Johnny's point of view in searching for the killer of his best friend, Grant Stonelea and in accepting and dealing with the demons of his past. I have not been a fan of first person narrative in the past but there has been a few of these over the past year that have converted me to this. I am now looking forward to this style in the remaining two novels in this series.
I love the character of Johnny's Pastor, Ron Thomas, an elderly but wise man who has a great insight into human nature and applies this to Johnny, showing him that he understands where Johnny is coming from and seems to know what makes Johnny tick, better than he does himself. It is through this character that Roth shines in showing more of the nature of God, about why we need to forgive, to let go, to leave our past behind us and leave it with God. Ron provides a great role model for Johnny to aspire to in being a Christian and learning to live his life God's way. From my perspective, it is through this character that the reader gets a glimpse of the depth of relationship Roth has with his God and from my POV, I like what I see.
One advantage I have that endeared me further to this novel is the setting: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, where I live. All the locations I have either been to, or know where they are, or have heard of them (the only exception being La Rue, the brothel! I have no idea if that is a real brothel or a fake name for this novel). This really did enable me to picture all the events as they unfolded much better than if I had not had this local knowledge.
Roth has knitted a plot together with some good twists and turns as Johnny gets closer and closer to solving the mystery of who killed Grant. All the pieces come together very nicely and so does all the pieces of Johnny's past that is connected with this murder and the terrorist attempt on Australian soil. Roth has implemented very well his research of the political environment of East Timor to the plot and the main characters. We also discover a link to who his father is but we are left hanging as to what Johnny does next to locate him. I guess that is the further background to the remaining novels.
This is one very good read and one that will hold you to the end and leads very well into the next novel, having just started that yesterday.