The Clown by E.M. McCarthy

The Clown by E.M. McCarthy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (63 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Only in Pittsburgh can a guy walk into a bank and come out a folk hero.

Jeb Jefferson loses his job, and the perfect solution to his economic reality is unconventional, illegal, and uncompromising. Jeb’s clown is a smart, methodical bank robber. He gets away with it until his girlfriend begins to suspect him. She tries to leave him, and still, Ariel can’t leave him completely. Her childhood friend, Scott, has his own set of problems made worse because he’s in love with her.

Just as the trio grapples with where everything is headed, the city of Pittsburgh is terrorized by The Clown. The police can’t stop him. Then the copycats make it even worse. The real problems begin when the politicians get involved in crime and punishment. Will Ariel stay with Jeb? Will Scott tell her how he feels? Will Jeb be caught? A Heist Thriller set in Pittsburgh.

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Twenty-one points-of-view characters tell the story from every angle (even the Three Rivers have an opinion). Part crime thriller, part satire/comedy, and part romance, The Clown is a play-like novella.

People might have laughed at the mysterious person who entered the bank dressed in full clown costume – but they weren’t laughing for long. As costumes go, this one hid the person’s identity perfectly, and the bank heist went off without a hitch. No one was laughing for very long – except the clown.

I found this to be an interested and slightly different story, slightly gritty and a little bit bittersweet. This absolutely isn’t a romance – even though there are complicated and realistic relationships all throughout the story there isn’t really a Happily Ever After style of ending that I feel most romance readers would expect. I found this story to be realistic and the interactions between the main cast of characters somewhat complicated. Readers looking for a happy, or sweet style of story probably won’t find this fits what they are looking for. This is more of a mystery or heist-style story and a little bit noir and gritty to my mind.

Told in pieces by the perspective of a few different people this story is quite different from others I usually read. Rather originally, to my mind, some of the small sections of perspective are actual places – like a river or the city itself in a more omnipotent type of view. I was nervous this would give the whole tale a jarring feeling. While I don’t feel this method of story-telling will resonate with everyone I didn’t mind the jumping around too much. The story pretty much keeps a linear fashion of telling – while the perspectives jump around the story and timeline is kept fairly straight, so I didn’t have too much trouble following it along.

I was intrigued by two of the main characters – Scott and Ariel. While the clown conducted a string of robberies we’re given snapshots into Ariel and Scott’s life. Childhood and lifelong friends, Scott has always secretly loved Ariel, but near the end of high school Ariel fell for one of the local bad-boys and now while she knows she should leave the relationship she can’t bring herself to do it. And while The Clown is most definitely the villain of the piece, I found the different styles of heists he performed was quite interesting too.

In some respects this story reminded me of a series of small vignettes all strung together – each adding a different facet to the story and the author wove it all together to form one whole story. The style and tone of the story was fresh and quite different for me – I can’t recall having ever really read a story in a similar vein – and this, along with my curiosity about how this would all end for Ariel, Scott and The Clown – had me eagerly turning the pages right to the end. A fairly straight mystery style of novel I feel this would appeal to a wide range of readers and would be suitable for most age ranges too.

Fresh and different, this was an interesting story that I really enjoyed.

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