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The Lonely Witness: A Novel

de William Boyle

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466424,389 (2.91)10
Amy was once a party girl, but she now lives a lonely life, helping the house-bound to receive communion in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn. She stops in at one of the apartments on her route, where Mrs. Epifanio, the elderly woman who lives there, says she hasn't seen her usual caretaker, Diane, in a few days. Supposedly, Diane has the flu--or so Diane's son Vincent said when he first dropped by and vanished into Mrs. E's bedroom to do no-one-knows-what.Amy's brief interaction with Vincent in the apartment that day sets off warning bells, so she assures Mrs. E that she'll find out what's really going on with both him and his mother. She tails Vincent through Brooklyn, eventually following him and a mysterious man out of a local dive bar. At first, the men are only talking as they walk, but then, almost before Amy can register what has happened, Vincent is dead.For reasons she can't quite understand, Amy finds herself captivated by both the crime she witnessed and the murderer himself. She doesn't call the cops to report what she's seen. Instead, she collects the murder weapon from the sidewalk and soon finds herself on the trail of a killer.Character-driven and evocative, The Lonely Witness brings Brooklyn to life in a way only a native can, and opens readers' eyes to the harsh realities of crime and punishment on the city streets.… (mais)

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Mostrando 1-5 de 6 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
My thoughts

What worked for me:

Amy
She’s a flawed, interesting, and not quite sympathetic character. While she’s conflicted about her actions, but she gets a voyeuristic thrill from them. It’s a bit of excitement in her dull life. Trying to “help a little” as a Eucharistic Minister to elderly shut-ins isn’t as rousing as her previous crowd. She’s gay, though she never bothers to explain this to the elderly people trying to set her up with their grandsons/nephews/neighbors/random single males in their lives.

Early in the book, Amy recounts witnessing a murder. (This happens on page 10, so it’s not a spoiler.) As a young teen, she watched through a window as her next-door neighbor strangled a man. She never spoke up. When she begins following the killer, she never finds proof that a murder happened. She even looks forward to seeing the killer: it’s exciting when everything–her grandparents, school, church, life–is boring. If that doesn’t pique your interest in this character, I’m not certain what will.

The tone
Boyle constantly increases the creepiness level in the story. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any creepier, it did. Even reading the ending first didn’t lessen the tension and didn’t take away the chilling, ominous feeling covering me while I read.

The setting
I was impressed by how well Boyle used the Brooklyn setting. With it, he creates a mood of despair and brokenness, of thwarted dreams and a dying, forgotten place filled with forgotten people. It’s the former home of Amy’s ex-girlfriend, who was desperate to leave and when she returns, feels trapped in it again. Yet Amy chooses to move here.

The Catholicism/saints motifs
(Remember, I have a degree in English, so I geek out about literary symbolism.)

Boyle does a great job with this one. From St. Therese, who inspires Amy to “help a little”, to the priest’s admonitions to give her father a second chance, to the St. Joan medal she filches, intending to give it to her ex-girlfriend: it works to add depth and dimension to the characters and the story.

The ending
(No spoilers!)

It might not be the ending that I want, but it works. Amy has grown as a character. The loose threads are mostly tied and clipped. The other characters are accounted for. It’s a satisfying ending.

What didn’t work for me:
I can't think of anything. I truly enjoyed this book!

That's interesting to me, as I usually dislike noir as a subgenre. It’s too cynical. The protagonists remind me too much of myself on a bad mental health binge, making all the wrong choices in life. (Don’t ask.) Watching people screw up their lives is too darned depressing. Whenever I read a novel in this subgenre, I feel like the author and I are pitted against each other: will the strength of the story win, or will the book only confirm my prejudice against the genre? I typically give up after a few chapters.

So, Meredith, you ask, why’d you read this book?

The cover. It hit all the right notes for me, and that was enough to entice me to open the cover and read the story.

Despite the distinctly noir tone of the novel, despite the cynicism and fatality of Amy’s views, despite all that, Boyle won: I flew through this story. I grew to care about Amy, even when she was at her most self-destructive. Bravo, Mr. Boyle.

Overall, this is an impressive book.

( )
  MeredithRankin | Jun 7, 2019 |
Amy lives quietly in a basement apartment in a working class part of Brooklyn. She dresses nondescriptly and spends her days bringing the Eucharist to elderly shut-ins and volunteering at church. She has a past, of dressing "like an extra in a John Waters film," bartending and partying with her girlfriend, but she left all that when Alessandra left her to pursue her acting career in Los Angeles. She seems to genuinely care for the elderly women she ministers to, but all that changes on a dime when she sees a man being murdered.

I picked up this book after seeing it described on a year-end "best of" list and seeing that Megan Abbott praised it. I was never able to get past the erratic nature of the main character. I like an unsympathetic character, but I do need that character to be believable. There was no telling what Amy would do next, whether that was help out a grieving mother or robbing an elderly parishioner, whether or not Amy was caring or criminal in her behavior was entirely random, and not in a fun, anarchic way. It was certainly fast-paced, though. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Jan 18, 2019 |
Did not finish...
  Dianekeenoy | May 30, 2018 |
I was about 29% in to this book and was really ready to put it down. Then, I read a review that said it was slow at the beginning, but got better. So, I decided to give it a try.

Well, it did have action over halfway through I think. That action, however, was interspersed with what seemed to me to be filler pages. The action did get my pulse racing a little, but that's only because I scanned the many filler pages and looked for it.

I had a lot of sympathy for Amy still trying to figure things out. However, I was sold on the understanding that this was a thriller.

In short you go through a LOT of filler pages about Amy's issues before I got to the action part. I was really expecting more action.

Thanks to Pegasus Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased revie ( )
  debkrenzer | May 22, 2018 |
Amy Falconetti, a thirty-something New Yorker, has abandoned her life as a bartender and partier. She volunteers for a church, bringing communion to elderly shut-ins. One day she follows a man who has discomfited one of her elderly neighbours and witnesses his murder. Instead of calling the police, she picks up the murder weapon and leaves; in the following days, she starts to worry that the killer is following her. Her routine life suddenly becomes chaotic, complicated even further when two people from her past make unexpected returns.

This book just didn’t do anything for me. Amy’s behaviour from the beginning is just unbelievable. After her former lover abandoned her, she explains, “’I started going to church, and I just felt like I could hide out and maybe help people.’” She does not seem to be religious or spiritual and as a gay person would probably have some difficulties with the teachings of the Catholic faith, but she chooses to deliver communion? She witnesses a murder yet does nothing to help the victim? Instead she takes the murder weapon and hides it in her home? Especially after the childhood incident involving Bob Tully, an incident which she describes as having “shaped her life,” she chooses to behave as she does? When Amy says, “’I don’t know why I do what I do,’” the reader can only echo with “I don’t know why you do what you do!” And when she thinks, “this was definitely the wrong road to go down. Beyond the pale. Epic as fuck, in terms of how stupid she’s being,” the reader can only agree!

It seems that Amy is trying to find her true identity: “’I’ve been searching for an identity my whole life, trying all these different lives.’” For years she lived an entirely different life drinking and partying: “She thinks about what she would’ve done when she was twenty-five or twenty-eight. She would’ve gone out. She would’ve headed straight to the bar. Shots. Beer. Music. She wouldn’t have felt intimidated or regretful. High school had taught her that . . . no way was it wrong to chase a feeling, to be unhinged, to act out of fear and fascination. How did she lose that knowledge? Whatever she’d gained had led to so much lost.” Now she feels she has become “so boring.” She even toys with reclaiming her old life by dressing in her old clothes and revisiting old haunts and friends. She decides she does not want to grow old, living in “fear of a toxic future. Lives get smaller, ruled by paranoia and isolation, and there’s nothing left to do but stay in retreat, stay hidden. Collect things, shield yourself, keep out of the sun.”

When Amy makes some questionable choices, she justifies them to herself as a desire to escape her boring existence: “You do things because you have to be near the beating heart of terror.” Perhaps my inability to identify with Amy stems from the fact that I don’t want to live “near the beating heart of terror.” I don’t need to stalk potentially violent people or contemplate carrying out a criminal act in order “to fill the void.” Amy is in her mid-thirties and says she is “starting to feel old” but she behaves like someone half her age. As a teenager, she found “Catholic school was boring. The nuns were boring. Her grandparents were boring. Smoking was boring.” Twenty years later, she has the same complaint that she has become “so boring”?! Not living in an inner city, perhaps my life is too safe so I have difficulty understanding the lives of people who witness murders on a regular basis; three major characters witness four murders.

In the end, Amy comments, “Maybe she’ll feel new for a while, this most recent wreck a movie she never wants to watch again.” Her comments reflected my feelings as I finished the novel: I wanted to move on to something new because I felt like I had watched a bad movie (with an especially bad climactic scene with ever so not subtle symbolism) which I do not want to watch again.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
1 vote Schatje | May 1, 2018 |
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Amy was once a party girl, but she now lives a lonely life, helping the house-bound to receive communion in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn. She stops in at one of the apartments on her route, where Mrs. Epifanio, the elderly woman who lives there, says she hasn't seen her usual caretaker, Diane, in a few days. Supposedly, Diane has the flu--or so Diane's son Vincent said when he first dropped by and vanished into Mrs. E's bedroom to do no-one-knows-what.Amy's brief interaction with Vincent in the apartment that day sets off warning bells, so she assures Mrs. E that she'll find out what's really going on with both him and his mother. She tails Vincent through Brooklyn, eventually following him and a mysterious man out of a local dive bar. At first, the men are only talking as they walk, but then, almost before Amy can register what has happened, Vincent is dead.For reasons she can't quite understand, Amy finds herself captivated by both the crime she witnessed and the murderer himself. She doesn't call the cops to report what she's seen. Instead, she collects the murder weapon from the sidewalk and soon finds herself on the trail of a killer.Character-driven and evocative, The Lonely Witness brings Brooklyn to life in a way only a native can, and opens readers' eyes to the harsh realities of crime and punishment on the city streets.

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