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Witness to myself by Seymour Shubin
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Witness to myself (2006)

by Seymour Shubin

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Unlike other Hard Case Crime offerings, Witness to Myself is not about a mobster or hitman or hi-tech executive turned drug-dealer. It is an unusual story in that respect and lacks some of the over-the-top action found in many other Hard Case Crime books. It, however, is not a disappointment by any means. It is a brilliant piece of work told from two points of view, that of Alan, the young cousin, and Alan's cousin, who later became a crime reporter. At the beginning, it is a little confusing with the switching between the two points of view, but any such confusion settles down later.

On the surface, Alan is a good, decent kid who spends vacations with his parents and does not get into much trouble. Alan eventually grows up and becomes a well-respected lawyer and is appointed to head a much-renowned charitable organization. But, Alan is troubled. He is troubled because he has a deep, dark secret that he has been trying to suppress for many years going back to age fifteen, when on a family vacation to Cape Code in the family motorhome, he went on a run barefoot through the woods by himself. In the woods, he came upon a young girl, perhaps twelve, and helped her get her kite down. Then, following some impulse that he chose not to control, Alan touches the girl inappropriately and strangles her. His family leaves the place where they pulled out to meander on the beach and Alan is haunted by what he did. His entire life is consumed by the guilt of what he did although he never heard anything about on the news so he is not entirely sure if he actually killed the girl. Alan is consumed with his guilt and, when his father pulls him aside to talk about the dangers of drugs, Alan is afraid because he thinks his secret has been discovered.

Years later, Alan meets a young nurse while in the hospital and, despite her suspicions and those of her father, that he might just be another creep out to use her and throw her away, they have a burgeoning romance. Yet, Alan is still consumed with what he did years ago and he has to know what really happened. Of course, this means returning to the scene of the crime and asking questions that might only end up exposing him - - that is, if he actually did what he thinks he did.

The story was fascinating because it goes into the mind of Alan, who the reader knows is a creep, but no one else in his life knows that about him. The story is about what he did tears him apart and leaves the reader with questions about the nature of evil. The story is also about whether he can ever be redeemed and whether that one horrible moment in Cape Cod is what really defines him. Or is Alan as seemingly innocent (except for that one vicious, heinous moment) as he makes himself out to be? Is this book a confession by one consumed with guilt for his horrible crime or is the book rather an
attempt by an evil conniving pedophile to whitewash what he has done and plea on the jury's (or the reader's) sympathies and argue mitigating circumstances and remorse. How do we (the readers) really know if this is truly the only time Alan acted out or how many other things he got away with while pretending to be a fine upstanding citizen? Is the entire book a phony ploy for sympathy? In this respect, perhaps Alan is scarier and more manipulative of the reader than Lou Ford in the Killer Inside Me ever was. At least Lou Ford knew there was a sickness inside of him. Alan never seems to be willing to admit it.

All in all, a wonderful character study of a criminal who perhaps wants the reader to think of him not as so much of a criminal ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
The protagonist of the story, Alan Benning is a successful lawyer working with a major charity in Pennsylvania. He is young, healthy, has a great job and has just met a beautiful woman who loves him dearly. Everything looks to be going perfectly for him, but inside he's haunted by something that happened in a Cape Cod woods some fifteen years previously when he was on a family holiday. He finds that he needs to return to the scene of the crime to find out what really happened on that day in order to put to rest the guilt that has been hounding him and to give him the peace he needs to continue the rest of his life. Seymour Shubin’s approach is complex and clever, with the story narrated by Alan's cousin and childhood pal, Colin who is a true crime writer – the implication being that "Witness To Murder" is the true crime book that Colin has written about Alan's life. That Colin fills in elements of the story that he couldn't have been privy to and ascribes emotions and dialogue to Alan that he couldn't have been aware of leads to questions about the veracity of the story. Was this the "true story" of what actually happened? Was the narrator reliable? This makes the overall book a hugely interesting piece of cleverly constructed meta-fiction. The book is also a story about redemption and forgiveness. Is it possible to forgive even the most heinous of crimes? Shubin looks at this question from almost every possible angle, lays out the issues in human terms, but refuses to give an answer leaving it to each reader to arrive at their own conclusions. Despite the cleverness of the narrative "Witness To Myself" also works as a great work of mystery fiction and we journey alongside Alan, slowly reconstructing what happened in the woods fifteen years ago, Shubin builds the story cleverly with the tension ratcheting up incrementally over each successive chapter. The book moves forward with great focus and is a fast and intensely paced read – an absolute page-turner. Shubin's writing is believable and gripping making for a superb mystery novel; its philosophical plot allied to the intensity of the writing will ensure that “Witness To Myself" will linger long in the memory. ( )
  calum-iain | Jul 13, 2014 |
The most serious, emotional, and depressing Hard Case book yet. Very, very good, but don't read it if you want hard boiled anti-heroes, femme fatales, and robberies.
  MarquesadeFlambe | Jan 18, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seymour Shubinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Schwinger, LarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I had no idea how tormented he was.
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