Lou Berney’s November Road was the darling crime novel of 2018 — and for good reason. It’s an unequivocally excellent book, a literary thriller set right after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, that’s jammed with white-knuckle suspense, while offering a meditation about life and love. It’s a book connoisseurs can thrust into the hands of even the most adamant non-crime-fiction reader to demonstrate the pliability of the genre; a response to those who insist crime fiction relies solely on pyrotechnics and testosterone-bulked goons, and turn their noses up because of that assumption. November Road is a thriller with heart; with rich characters and depth; that’s fast-moving, but emotionally resonant.
The murder of John F. Kennedy has been handled by many authors, the events of that day and the subsequent investigation perfect fodder for conspiracy theorists and novelists. But in November Road, it’s merely part of the backdrop; it’s the spark, but not the nucleus of Berney’s tale. Early on in the piece, Berney reveals who was responsible for the assassination: New Orleans mob boss Carlo Marcello. From there, the narrative splits into three distinct interweaving paths. The first involves Frank Guidry, a high-ranking operative in Marcello’s organisation, who unintentionally becomes complicit in the death of the President, and becomes a loose end Marcello needs silenced — so is made the target of the ruthless hitman known as Barone, who pursues his target with unflinching brutality, willing able to sacrifice everyone who gets in the way of his mission. In order to conceal his identity, Guidry duplicitously befriends Charlotte Roy, the young mother of two children, who has impulsively fled her alcoholic husband. But as they journey together, Guidry and Charlotte’s relationship begins to evolve, his sharp edges softening, and Guidry begins to ponder his future, even as Barone closes in for the kill.
Relentless, literate, and nearly impossible to put down, November Road is glittering gem of a thriller. It’s worthy of all its accolades — and more.