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Joe Café is a psychological drama involving four very different, yet equally disturbed characters. The main character is Chet who had a sordid past and entered the army to get away from it. This turned him into a killing machine. Something snapped in him, because of which he seems to now enjoy the mayhem. Sara, who is a dancer at a strip club, has an equally sorry past. Having the perfect life with loving parents, it all goes south when tragedy strikes. She starts dancing for a strip club but just cannot get out, even though she wants to. Dogan, the owner of the strip club is portrayed as a man of principles who will always end up doing the right thing. He is also deeply in love with Sara. Finally, there is Michael, a police officer who has a history with Chet.
The entire story revolves around Chet, a psychotic killer, who ends up killing four people in ‘Joe Café’ in the town where Michael is the sheriff, done in revenge against him. This is where the drama begins. He then moves on to abduct Sara while being in a drunken haze. The rest of the story is about the rescue of Sara and goes through quite a few twists, as mobsters and hitmen get involved in the rescue.
This is quite a short book, but I was amazed by in the deep character development which the author accomplishes here. This is sheer brilliance. We get to know each character’s circumstances, current situation and life’s various events which brought them to where they are. I think this is primarily what the book in about. It has been described as a thriller, but there aren’t any scenes where you find yourself holding your breadth, anticipating what happens next. Neither is it a suspense novel, as very little time is devoted to the actual mystery of finding Sara. I call is a psychological drama as we are given deep insights into each character. The author makes us feel their pain, their frustrations and their fears. And still, we end up liking them for what they are.
The beauty of the writing comes through as we see how each of the characters reacts to these events. The resolve of Sara to do anything to remain alive for her love and her child, the despair of Dogan over the loss of his love, the complete breakdown of Michael when he can’t solve the case and the near indifference of Chet to right and wrong, are all woven magnificently into the story. The most artistic part of the story is where we see Michael alternating between fishing and being stone drunk. His moves from indifference to despair, from resignation to blaming everyone for his misery. This was a treat to read.
This book could have been turned into a thriller very easily. All that was needed was to shift focus from the characters to the search for Sara. However, I think that the author was not aiming at that, as the search for Sara took a backseat and character development took the centre stage. Do I like the story because of this? I actually believe this helped bring the characters to life in this somewhat small novel, and that is what the book is all about.
Although the end was very hurried and abrupt, I still liked it as both Sara and Chet get the freedom that they deserve. But, I would have liked the author to have extended it a bit, and I think he missed an opportunity to add another action packed twist to the story. Besides, this one minor hiccup, I think this was a fantastic story and deserves nothing less than five stars. I would love to see the author try something different now. If he takes his skill in character development to another genre, it could be truly explosive!
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