I'm looking forward to hearing Linden MacIntyre speak about his novel Punishment at the Heliconian later this month.
It certainly doesn't shy away from asking big questions, even if it doesn't fully answer them. The characters are criminals, victims, jail guards, policemen, lawyers, social workers. Everyone seeking some form of justice.
The main protagonist has retired after a career as a jail guard, and returned to the village of his youth. This is no quiet corner: there is a murder, a suspect, an old love, a former nemesis. Our hero is quickly pulled into events that strongly test his morals.
Punishment questions the nature of justice, and man's often futile attempts to put things right. Yes, it is about the justice and corrections systems, but also about how we punish ourselves, judge others too quickly, and make history for ourselves.
One of the great things about this book for me is the dialogue. Blunt, direct, revealing. If and when this is made into a movie I would cast to hear the maritime accents.
"So what do you think? Tony, here we sit, just the two of us. Two old guys with a lot of history an a little bit of future. Not a lot we can do about the history. But what are we going to do about the little bit of future we got left?" (p. 136)
"There can be no going back. There's only going forward now. The issue isn't what happened. It's what's going to happen." (p. 174)
"Nothing can be worse than what has already happened. Nothing can make it un-happen." (p. 178)
"It was suddenly so sad and funny. It was a victory of sorts, Tommy's miserable capitulation, the new spiritual Tommy, his abject surrender to such pathetic needs. I felt suddenly sorry for him: he's been punished and I could punish his again. But I knew I wouldn't. Even Tommy Steele deserved a new beginning." (p. 316)