No One Escapes Undamaged


I’m a fan of Joseph Souza. I enjoyed Unpaved Surfaces, a very different novel from his latest, Need to Find You. The former is a mystery. This one is crime.

Is it ever.

Undoubtedly, my enjoyment of Need to Find You is enhanced by my latest effort, Forgive Us Our Trespasses. My crime novel is small town, Southern, and colorful. His is gritty, urban, and dark, though Portland, Maine, is no metropolis. Mine has a body count. His has lots of carnage. Lots of people come to gruesome ends in Need to Find You, and some leave the reader empathic and sorrowful. Innocent bystanders stumble endlessly into gruesome fates.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

I can take it. It toughened me. It numbed my sensibilities. I loved it. Joseph Souza’s characters are Elmore Leonard’s on steroids.

Whip Billings is a former cop seeking reinstatement but fighting an addiction to booze. Yasmine Weeks is a troubled young woman fueled by vengeance. Philip Haskins is a cop who owes his soul to a fierce, almost mythical, drug lord known only as The Viking.

Don’t assume this yarn to be obsessed with vile brutes. At the center of it all lies the legacy of a literary figure, Robert Cornish, and a puzzle over why his unpublished work is so valued  by thugs and dandies alike. Souza draws teachers, professors, curators, a grieving father, an unwed mother, and a missing grad student into his web of intrigue, and he pulls all the elements of a fast-moving story together with a speed and efficiency that match the savagery of his characters. His fiction is as tightly wound as the threads in a baseball and as volatile as a trembling vial of liquid nitro.

No one who survives does so with ease. No one leaves this pot without being seriously boiled.

It’s a tale of damaged, demented freaks with dark secrets and scars that debilitate both inwardly and outwardly. It has few moments of levity. Pressure builds. Assumptions are wrong. Truth and justice do not win in the end. They hobble home, crippled but intact.

Need to Find You is both pitiless and pure in its cold, hard depiction of life in various kinds of gutters.

Here, too, is the review I wrote last year about Unpaved Surfaces.


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