Justice in the World of Allen Eskens
The wheels of justice often seem to turn in the most mysterious ways imaginable, and the fact remains that while we may not have the perfect system (pretty sure no one can make such a claim), it’s one that generally proves to lead in the right direction. Cases of criminals walking free or innocent people being found guilty of crimes they did not commit do certainly happen, but in the grand scheme of things it works, and that’s mainly because of the idea that everyone deserves a fair defence, no matter who they are or what crimes they may have been accused of.
In Allen Eskens’ (author of the critically-acclaimed The Life We Bury) latest novel, The Heavens May Fall, we see how truly important this principle is to the proper functioning of our society as a man, Ben Pruitt, sits on the razor’s edge between guilty and innocent, accused of having murdered his wife, Jennavieve. Though virtually the whole world as well as the detective in charge of the case, Max Rupert, see him as guilty, his lawyer, Boady Sanden, stands firmly in his corner, maintaining his client’s innocence and standing alone against the grain.
A Case of Murder and Fallen Lawmen
With Eskens being the author it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this was only the tip of the iceberg as to the many things in play in the story. For starters, the detective and the lawyer are actually friends, and their relation is tested in every way as they pull in opposite directions on the same case, doing at the same time their jobs but also following their personal instincts and beliefs.
In addition, both of them have suffered greatly in the past few years, the detective losing his wife and the lawyer failing to prevent the death of a client he thought avoidable… perhaps even more than the rightful resolution of this case, they are both in search of some sort of personal redemption. There are personal demons aplenty, and while they hound Max and Boady, the two slowly unravel a complex case that takes some truly unexpected and revealing turns.
A Mystery Unlike Most Others
All of those elements come together very naturally and make for a multifaceted story that keeps taking you from one interesting avenue to the next. It becomes much harder under these circumstances to accurately predict what you’ll run into, and that only makes The Heavens May Fall more enjoyable and interesting to read… after all, it is centred on a murder mystery, and what fun is there in knowing where things are going to end up?
I must admit that Eskens did a magnificent job in weaving together a complex and believable web of intrigue, one that is certainly difficult to straighten out and I believe will surprise you no matter how many mystery stories you’ve read in your life. I can’t really discuss this aspect further without spoiling anything, but I will add that the author makes a point of going off the beaten path and there are no guarantees of happy outcomes for any characters, and I assure you, the ending will run contrary to your expectations.
A World of Very Real People
Set aside the intricate workings of the murder mystery, and there’s still plenty of meat left in the book coming in the form of the characters themselves. I found that this novel is as much about plot as it is about character development, with Eskens obviously putting a lot of effort in creating and thoroughly refining the people populating the pages of his work. From the moment we meet every person we can easily picture them both physically and mentally, instantly feeling some sort of connection, whether it’s a good or bad one.
There is a marked realism in the way in which the characters perceive and interact with the rest of the world and others. There isn’t a second where someone does something completely out of character and inexplicable, nor are we ever asked to suspend our disbelief and get taken out of the story for it. In a sense, it almost felt as if they were all pulled out of some documentary movie. They all go through various challenges and experiences over the course of the story, transforming and developing in their own ways, and through the process end up becoming more than just characters in a book… they become real humans you have an opinion of and feel something for.
A More Technical Overview
Now, when looking at The Heavens May Fall from an objectively technical perspective rather than one of enjoyment, I do have to note that there are a couple of small faults in the book, the kind that will certainly get corrected as the author acquires more and more experience. To begin with, while the book certainly isn’t very long (270 pages on paperback), I felt like a few of the sections were nothing but filler, describing mundane and uninteresting details, such as meals or the pointless aspects of someone’s daily life. While I understand such things are meant to give us more insight into the characters, I believe they ultimately hurt the pacing of the novel more than they help us.
In addition to that, this may be my personal opinion, but I would have preferred if more focus was dedicated to the murder mystery storyline rather than the character development, mostly because of how purely interesting it was. I did find myself wishing on a couple of occasions that the book was a bit longer so that we may have had more details on the case. Having said those things, I don’t believe they take much away from the enjoyment of the novel, but are instead small hiccups you can easily get over and forget about.
The Heavens May Fall is without a doubt a solid, entertaining and surprising thriller by Allen Eskens, delving into the characters as much as the plot itself and going off the beaten track for the benefit of our amazement. It’s small problems shouldn’t really be an obstacle for anyone, and if you’re looking for a murder mystery that will grip, shock, and captivate with the case and its actors in equal measure, then I must recommend that you read this book.
Allen Eskens is a writer whose first novel was The Life We Bury, with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. In 2015 he was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. His grand goal is to give readers novels that challenge their creative thinking with magnificent twists but also respect them with intellectual honesty and appreciation.