William Boyle’s The Lonely Witness drew me in with the title. It is a compelling idea. I can imagine all sorts of stories with a lonely witness, but none of my imaginings came close to the wild ride Boyle takes us on. We begin with Amy, a heartbroken young woman who has lost her mojo after her lover Alessandra left her to pursue success in Hollywood. She drops out of the world of bars and parties and began volunteering at the neighborhood church, bringing communion to seniors in the neighborhood. The mystery begins when a neighborhood tough guy frightens one of the women she visits. He says his mom is ill but they begin to wonder if he murdered her. Amy investigates and witnesses his murder.
This is not the first time she saw a murder. The last time she was a child and she never told anyone, even after she was threatened and menaced by the killer. She inexplicably does the same, not calling the police, not admitting she saw the crime, and then trying to find the murderer, though with no idea why.
I like this book a little more than I think it deserves. I liked Amy even though she is someone life happens to rather than someone who makes life happen. Usually, I hate that, but she has a tenacious quality, a sullen stubbornness, that I like even though she is not the brightest bulb in the store. Perhaps instead of being the Lonely Witness, she is more the Witless Loner.
This is not a big mystery. You know who the killer is as soon as Amy does when she sees him. He’s not the brightest bulb either. No one shines. In a way, the most sympathetic character is the recovering alcoholic who has decided to come back to Amy seeking forgiveness after abandoning her and her mother when Amy was a child. Amy is not interested, though she is polite. After all, she thought he was dead.
In a way, it seems like Amy is in a funk and perhaps she’s one of those people who need a good murder to get out of it.
I received an e-galley of The Lonely Witness from the publisher through NetGalley. It will be released May 1st.