Rag and Bone by Joe Clifford

Twenty or thirty pages into Joe Clifford’s “Rag and Bone” (Oceanview Publishing, 2019), one can determine whether an author can write and if the story is going to hold you. Clifford does both. Then there were the regrets, regrets that “Rag and Bone” wraps up the five-book Jay Porter series, regrets I haven’t read the first two books, and regrets that Clifford’s “The One That Got Away” (Down & Out Books, 2018) sits on my bookshelf unread. All of this because “Rag and Bone” is so damn good.

So where was I? Oh yeah, twenty or thirty pages in. There were a couple of bodies left around Porter’s home town which kind-of forced Porter to go on the lam. The true killers were soon discovered and Porter walks back into the police station to clear up any misunderstandings which the police might have had. Returning to town floods Porter with memories which leads us to one of the problems with late-to-the-series readers have, fear of missing out. A lot has happened in the few short years of the Porter books–a broken marriage, estranged friends, and dead relatives (it’s a shit list)–, but Clifford catches up new readers and those with forgetful memories. But whether you’ve read the previous books or not is unimportant, because “Rag and Bone” is so damn good.

It could be I eased into “Rag and Bone” because of my brief history with the character and the story, but I think not. Even though Porter is a bit surly and a border-line drunk, Clifford gives us small slivers of emotion within Porter that we can latch on to. Porter isn’t a cardboard cutout, no matter how flat my description paints him. There’s a scene deep into “Rag and Bone” where Porter drinks well past his self-imposed beer limit and everything goes to shit. Porter might have his excuses–hell, we all do–, but Clifford has none of that. The ramifications that Porter face are real and his uncontrollable spiral is in full effect.

Clifford writes character then story. Any reservations you may have about jumping into the deep end of this series, push them away as one doesn’t read Clifford for the plot twists, one reads Clifford because he’s so damn good.

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