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October 8, 2007 | by  | in Books |
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Rocking Horse Road

By Carl Nixon
Random House, 2007

“None of us has ever got over Lucy Asher. She was our first true love and, in some sense, our last.” The narrator in Carl Nixon’s new book attempts to explain the lifelong impact Lucy Asher’s murder had on a group of 15-year-old boys in 1980. Though none of them really knew the school girl before she was killed, they come to believe “our search for her killer, our search for her, defines us.” This is their collective justification for over a quarter of a century of obsession, investigation, spying, burglary, assault and arson.

Their collective inability to solve the mystery and resolve their issues are blamed for a string of failed relationships and even divorces. The fact that even well into their 40s they continue to meet in a lockup which is a shire to Lucy Asher is considered “creepy” by the women in their lives. I would be inclined to agree.

Attempting to justify this creepy and often criminal behavior over decades, the group argues they were “searching not just for Lucy’s murderer but for a moment in time when we had the unwavering belief that we served a higher purpose.” This is supposedly linked in with the divisive Springbok tour, though this section of the book feels tacked on. The boys simply watch one small protest from their bikes.

The writing style is uneven. Some evocative passages are surrounded by forced metaphors and Nixon should certainly fire his proof reader. There are at least three repeated sentences and one which simply does not make sense. That is too many in a professional book. Ultimately though, the question is whether he could sustain a celebrated short story in novel form.

The narrator laments “we have spent the best years searching, and yet gone nowhere that we planned, and know nothing for certain.” I felt the same way after the deeply unsatisfying non-conclusion of this murder mystery.

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