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The Quiet Boy

Review

The Quiet Boy

THE QUIET BOY is a haunting work that sinks its hook into readers from the first page and never lets go, even after the story has ended. Author Ben H. Winters is primarily known for his works of speculative fiction, particularly his Last Policeman trilogy. He stretches his considerable talent even further in this atmospheric, genre-blurring tale that is by turns mysterious, puzzling and ultimately frightening.

The book ping-pongs back and forth between 2008 and 2019. It is told in a third-person narrative style that befits the professional demeanor of Jay Albert Shenk, one of its primary protagonists. Jay is a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in personal injury and malpractice cases. Winters takes us through Jay's method of locating and acquiring clients through a combination of stringer referrals, legal acumen and Las Vegas schmooze. He is assisted in this endeavor by his adopted son Ruben, who is being groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps.

"While THE QUIET BOY is indeed a courtroom thriller, it is also a mystery and, in some very special ways, a hair-raising supernatural tale. The revelations concerning Wesley are chilling, to say the least, and literally turn the entire story on its head."

Jay in 2008 believes he has a winning case when he persuades the parents of 14-year-old Wesley Keener to retain him for a medical malpractice action. Wesley had sustained a head injury while engaged in otherwise innocent horseplay at school and underwent emergency brain surgery. In the procedure’s aftermath, he displays bizarre symptoms that include the apparent inability to communicate, eat or sleep, among other things. Wesley simply walks. It is like nothing anyone has ever seen. That singular fact is actually a problem for the case, but Jay is sure that he can overcome it with the right witness. As the trial approaches, he thinks he has found just that.

However, in the 2019 sections, it is clear that things have not worked out as planned for either the Shenks or the Keeners. Ruben, whose nickname is “Rabbi,” is working as a food prepper in a restaurant and is all but estranged from Jay, who he worshipped as a teenager and is struggling to keep his law practice afloat. The Keeners are in even worse shape, trying to make ends meet to provide Wesley, who is still walking, with the care he needs. They are all brought back together when Wesley’s father, Richard, is accused of murdering one of the expert witnesses in the malpractice trial that occurred 10 years ago. Wesley’s mother, Beth, asks Jay to represent Richard. He reluctantly agrees, even though he has absolutely no experience in criminal defense.

It would be an uphill slog even under the best circumstances, given that Richard --- who was found with the victim while holding the literal smoking gun in his hand --- readily admits his guilt, does not want legal representation and is prepared to accept the death penalty. Jay enlists an equally reluctant Ruben as a private investigator. As a result of a combination of plausible happenstance and dogged persistence, Ruben uncovers what actually happened, both in the present and in the past. Some light also is ultimately shed on the “why” and “what” of poor Wesley.

While THE QUIET BOY is indeed a courtroom thriller, it is also a mystery and, in some very special ways, a hair-raising supernatural tale. The revelations concerning Wesley are chilling, to say the least, and literally turn the entire story on its head. Let’s just say that my inclination when finishing the book was to round up my children, all of whom are well into their adulthood, and hide them away. That happens when you read a novel with powerful plotting and characterization, and this one has it by the truckload.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 22, 2021

The Quiet Boy
by Ben H. Winters

  • Publication Date: May 18, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316505447
  • ISBN-13: 9780316505444