A Trace of Revenge by Lyle Howard begins bleakly with an expected birthday party that never happens. The six-year-old Matt Walker’s cravings for his mother’s chocolate chip cookie in the dawn of day extinguish at the realization that an intruder bashed his parents’ faces upon the walls and headboard of their bed. Suffering from blunt trauma to his head during the life-changing house invasion, Matt loses his ability to hear. However, he discovers he gained a unique power called psychometry.
This power allows the male protagonist at age sixteen to discover the person who repeatedly stole from students’ lockers at his second high school. Matt’s gift foreshadows what the readers’ will naturally suspect will be his instinctual quest to bring his parent’s killers to justice. His change of address from Florida to Jacksonville lands him in the heartland of baseball and in the company of his agreeable grandmother and his erratic and disagreeable grandfather.
It is during a major league baseball game in Jacksonville, that Matt receives an unmistakable signal by one of the prized objects of the game. Howard produces gripping suspense with protagonists that are three-dimensional. His villains are round recognizable dark figures caught up in an underworld of drugs, murder, and facades. His victims are lovable flawed and courageous men and women who attempt to thrive despite the unfortunate blow of fate that threatens to dissipate happiness from their lives.
Howard uses just the right amount of red herrings in his crime thriller to produce a gripping narrative as he weaves together various vignettes of different characters who surface, fade and resurface in the unfolding drama. The omniscient narrator reveals the true identity of the protagonist and antagonists while building solid characters.
In A Trace of Revenge, the reader longs for a dull moment but it just does not happen. No one would imagine the unpredictable drama that Matt undergoes because of his gift of psychometry. The bevy of characters flows seamlessly in and out of the narrative. The shift of setting from land to sea on board a luxury cruise ship facilitates additional intrigue to this plot.
The horror of witnessing the gruesome murder of a loved one is, unfortunately, becoming a growing reality in contemporary society. This narrative explores the aftermath of such a reality to reveal the deep psychological scars and physical disability experienced by some victims.
I found Howard’s decision to incorporate characters with disability in his novel commendable. Both Matt and Simone, two protagonists are deaf. However, this never prevents them from living an ordinary life and facing many of the similar problems experienced by other couples or youths.
The book reads as a superbly edited text. I detected only two minor grammatical errors. This riveting novel will spellbind readers who enjoy the Crime, Thriller, Mystery and Horror genre. This book’s shady characters use considerable foul language besides splattering blood and guts, therefore I would reserve this book for adults. I award Howard’s novel 4 out of 4 stars. While I am not a fan of the Crime, Thriller, Mystery and Horror genre, this book has a fan in me.