Recap: The beating death of Patrick Hare is one of John McDaid’s first murders to investigate as a cop. In Glasgow, Scotland, the murder doesn’t get much media attention. After all, the case is pretty cut and dry. A gang of young men confesses to the crime. But poor policing and investigating as well as false confessions allow the men to go free. Typically, for an officer, that’s the end of the case. After a trial, there’s not much left to do.
But John McDaid can’t just let it go. And neither can Patrick Hare’s father, Francis. Francis befriends John during the investigation, hoping to have someone who will give him insight into the investigation. But the bond grows much deeper than that. Francis is a cabinetmaker and spends his spare time playing soccer, as does John. Soon the two men are playing on the same soccer team, and Francis is teaching John the art of cabinetmaking.
Over the years, Francis and his wife Deborah seemingly adopt John. John mirrors the Hares’ dead son Patrick even more when he begins to date Patrick’s ex-girlfriend Sarah. Years go by and all of them remain haunted by Patrick’s death. But then Francis and his wife die suddenly, and John starts to wonder if there might be more to the story about the gang that killed Patrick.
Analysis: The Cabinetmaker is a story that lends itself to the question “How well do you really know someone?” John McDaid has made a friend for life in Francis Hare. They know of each other’s personal crises, of each other’s hobbies, of the people in each other’s lives. But is that everyone you need to know to know a person? Unfortunately, John McDaid starts to question this a little too late.
In fact, a little later than the reader. Foreshadowing allowed me to figure out the basic gist of the twist before the main character did — something I don’t generally like in a story. For the remainder of the novel, I kept waiting and waiting for John to figure it out. When he did, it turned out there was even more of a twist to uncover than I expected. That, I have to admit, was a nice touch.
The Cabinetmaker could have moved along a bit faster. It takes place over decades of time, and at points, it feels that way. But what starts out as a novel about a seemingly closed case with little direction becomes an exciting mystery that proves everyone has a closet full of skeletons.
MVP: Francis. At first, Francis is a sad, but nice and talented man — one who wants to know anything and everything about how his son was killed. But as we later learn, Francis is also an angry man, and very smart. It’s hard to not respect his genius and the way he uses it for power.