Saturday, December 17, 2011

"The Saint of San Francisco"

Review - "The Saint of San Francisco" by Jerry Sacher

Flawed characters, good style

Recommended, With Qualifications

Jeremy Haniver has a love affair with San Francisco.  Since he was a child, he longed to be there, especially with the man of his dreams.  Unfortunately, his life so far hasn't turned out quite that way.  Living in Chicago, unhappy, he makes the decision to move to the Bay and start his life fresh.  Of course, the reality isn't quite what he thought there either, and late one foggy night, his unhappiness has him on the Golden Gate Bridge, ready to jump.  And he tries, only to fall down at the feet of a good looking man.

Mark Caparelli, former marine and now member of the SFPD, is taking a drive late that night himself, thinking about his life, his hopes and dreams, and his relationship with Chris, the new man in his life.  Or rather, how to end the new relationship - it just isn't working. 

And then Jeremy falls right at his feet.  And promptly vomits all over him and passes out.  Rather than take him to the hospital, where a lot of uncomfortable questions will be asked, Mark decides to take Jeremy home with him, much to Chris' ire and disdain.  As the two men become friends, then begin to date, Jeremy falls back into his brooding ways.

On Pier 39, he meets Tom, a young sailor in town in a weekend pass.  Shy, a virgin with men, Tom makes an awkward pass at Jeremy, who passes, but does tell Tom to meet him the following day and have coffee.  When Jeremy sees Tom next, he is dead, murdered in a cheap motel room, his death a case for Mark.  And when Tom's family demands the case be dropped, since their son could not possibly be one of THOSE people, Jeremy decides to investigate on his own.  After a couple of close calls, is the killer after Jeremy?  And will he live to solve the crime?

This book shows a lot of promise - the premise is good, the locale familiar, and the characters, for the most part, interesting.  Jerry Sacher has shown a nice hand for narrative, pacing and creating sharply drawn characters.  Unfortunately, Jeremy is a very unsympathetic young man, and I almost have to ask myself if the "saint" part was sarcastic.

Jeremy seems very unhappy and, self-admittedly, bored with men.  It is very difficult to create a sympathetic and engaging hero when he is hamstrung from the start.  A suicidal, shallow main character can work, but he has to grow into something more, and it doesn't seem Jeremy accomplishes that feat completely. His loyalty in trying to solve Tom's murder is by far his most endearing characteristic.  But for Jeremy to feel sorry for Chris and forgive him so quickly erodes his credibility as a character.

Mark, Chris and Tom are very interesting characters.  I would have liked to have seen Tom's story fleshed out a little more. 

This is a good, solid first effort by a writer who certainly has a unique style and tons of potential.  I hope he hones his characters more finely for his next work.  I recommend this book, and hope readers can look past Jeremy's flaws to see the talent and potential there.


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