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The Night in Question


The Night in Question

THE NIGHT IN QUESTION begins near its end, bobs, weaves and dives through time, and reaches a startling conclusion, all without a single narrative misstep. Those who have quickly acquired the habit of reading anything that author Nic Joseph publishes will be eager to sink their teeth into this fine contemporary tale that combines traditional mystery elements with the flavor of the day --- the narrator who is unreliable, both deliberately and otherwise --- with a touch of police procedure just to sort some (but not all) of it out.

Paula Wileson is the protagonist of the piece, a determined but believably unsure woman who has been thrust into difficult circumstances. Her life has been turned upside down by an accident in which her husband, Keith, was injured and left wheelchair-bound. She is working two jobs to make ends meet: as a waitress at a diner and as an Uber/Lyft-type driver, the latter of which propels THE NIGHT IN QUESTION.

"THE NIGHT IN QUESTION begins near its end, bobs, weaves and dives through time, and reaches a startling conclusion, all without a single narrative misstep."

One night, Paula finds herself driving a fare who turns out to be Ryan Hooks, a popular rock star. At first she does not recognize him, but what is even more memorable for her is their destination, where she delivers Ryan to an apparent assignation at an apartment house in an upscale part of town. Paula subsequently discovers that he has left his phone in her car. She initially plans to return it, but after doing a bit of research on Ryan --- who turns out to be very, very married --- she decides that the phone, which contains some incriminating documentation of his affair, can be leveraged. Paula’s motives aren’t pure, but they’re understandable, given that Keith is a viable candidate for some experimental surgery that might restore him but is too expensive for them to afford. Paula’s plan is to blackmail Ryan for just enough money to finance Keith’s operation. It doesn’t take much for him to agree.

Meanwhile, Paula finds herself intertwined with Ryan’s apparent paramour to the extent that, under an assumed identity, she attends a party at the woman’s apartment where the details grow fuzzy in direct proportion to the alcohol consumed. By early that morning, someone is dead, the police have been called, and Paula --- or at least her alter ego --- is wanted for questioning. Paula has some memories, but none of them are of the murder. She recalls just enough, though, to come to some conclusions, particularly about Ryan.

It takes a minor but extremely interesting character to provide part of the missing pieces to the puzzle, which in turn is ultimately solved by a sharp, driven and crafty homicide detective who is determined to see that justice is provided for the victim. The result is a self-contained mystery that succeeds on all levels, including a couple that you probably will not see coming.

THE NIGHT IN QUESTION preserves and extends Joseph’s winning streak. At this point, the critical acclaim she has acquired exceeds the commercial success she has earned and deserves, but this book could right that shortcoming in quick order. If you aren’t yet on the Nic Joseph train, try her latest. It is a first cabin experience.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 5, 2018

The Night in Question
by Nic Joseph