Written by Lee Thompson — Lee Thompson likes to place his noir stories in a family setting. In his debut crime novel, A Beautiful Madness, the author explored a family’s attempts to understand an uncharacteristic moment of violence perpetrated by their patriarch, a previously stable and upstanding man. It’s a book that made my top five books of 2014. His follow-up novella It’s Only Death chronicled a son’s attempts to reach out to his mother and sister after his own violence had shattered their family. With Fury in Hand is another novella and once again the notion of family comes under the noir lens – this time both the family you’re given and the family you choose.
Set over just one fateful day in Flint, Michigan, the story follows several protagonists, some with close connections to each other, some who meet only in passing through happenstance. We observe as their interactions lead inexorably to a dramatic violent end.
Grace, only just 18 and despite a tough upbringing a true innocent, has been wandering the streets for three days, having been released by the State after her last foster placement broke down. She is jobless and homeless, and beginning to wonder how long she can survive.
Max Straub works at the local bank as a teller. His father Reginald is the branch manager. His wife, Isabelle, is having an affair with another teller, Rodney Forston, and something inside Max has snapped. He carries a knife strapped to his leg and spends his days playing violent fantasies in his mind of killing Isabelle and Rodney, Reginald, and even the children taking the bus to school. It will be one sudden act of violence by Max which sends events spiraling.
Isabelle is mourning the slow death of her marriage. She carries guilt, not just over her affair, which she knows in her heart will not last, but also for what she feels is her role in the failure of their relationship. What has happened to the man she loved? Max used to be passionate and spontaneous. Now he’s distant and morose. How much of this, she wonders, is her fault?
Caleb Majors may only be 23 but already is having to turn his life around. He grew up addicted first to alcohol, then crack cocaine. He hit rock bottom after viciously assaulting his sister when intoxicated, and since then has been out of contact with her. He has begun the slow climb out of the pit, achieving sobriety and distancing himself from his old friends. One of those, Lenny, is particularly persistent though, continuing to visit and baiting Caleb with offers of beer, trying to wheedle out of him his sister’s address, convinced she has a hidden stash of money.
Layla Majors continues to work as a prostitute, providing services to a mainly middle class clientele, including Reginald. She will meet Grace on the street and take her in. Her motives for doing so are never made clear as tragedy strikes before we can find out.
Thompson has a lot to fit into a relatively short work but the book’s structure, with the story moving from one person’s perspective to another, following the events as they happen, works well. You are given enough time to understanding the motivation of each character. Thompson has shown previously he has a flair for writing violence, and that continues here. Not all the words sing off the page, but the occasional clunky prose which marred It’s Only Death is much less evident here. With Fury in Hand is another more than solid effort from an emerging noir writer, and the relatively cheap price should act as another incentive for you to try his work.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars