three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
18-Sept-Oct-2005
user_rating: 
0

A Novel

A-NorthIn the sequel to Girls (1997), the down-and-out Jack is working as a bouncer at a beach resort and "climbing slowly down the ladder of police work." His career picks up when he agrees to search for a woman’s missing nephew. But there’s a catch. The boy has apparently disappeared to Vienna, the small town in upstate New York where Jack lived his former life and hoped never to return. As Jack searches for the missing boy, past demons haunt him: his divorce, the death of his infant daughter, his professional failures. Soon, with the help of his old friend and mentor, Jack starts to ferret out much-guarded secrets.
Norton. 302 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 039305103X

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The overarching question becomes not whether Jack can accomplish his current mission but whether returning to the scene of so many earlier crimes can provide him the release or the forgiveness that he needs. … Jack’s decisions and the actions they fuel are ones that the reader will wrestle with as surely as does Jack." Robin Vidimos

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The narrative, the dialogue, the pacing of a scene can be as stylized as anything that ever passed between Bogie and Bacall. … North is by turns a thriller, a morality play, a lengthy interior monologue, a plunge into the psychological abyss. It’s also a damn good book." Richard Grant

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"North is a fundamentally sound, well-paced potboiler committed to carrying the reader on a bumpy, backcountry roadtrip with an old-fashioned, black-coffee swilling action hero at the wheel. While neither Busch nor his man Jack are going to tax your imagination, they’re not going to waste your time either." Andrew Ervin

Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Having read Girls will make reading North a richer experience, but the experience is plenty rich on its own. … The novel is not always easy to follow because of its spare descriptions."
Steve Weinberg

Critical Summary

The Washington Post notes that "Dashiell Hammett’s fingerprints are easy to spot" in Busch’s latest effort. The author knows how to stylize dialogue, pace a scene, unfold a story, and, of course, introduce the treacherous woman—and make it all seem familiar and surprising at the same time. The tortured Jack, "part hard-boiled detective and part tragic hero," (Washington Post) captivated all critics’ imaginations with his introspective meditation on his own life. After all, in order to save a life he must relive his past. But can returning to the scene of past crimes offer salvation? North is not as suspenseful as you might hope, but it seems that’s not the point.

Also by the Author

Girls (1997): After the death of his baby daughter, Jack—a security guard at a local college—investigates the disappearance of a 14-year-old girl.