The Goodbye Man by Chad Barton
Review by Chuck Rounds
The Goodbye Man by Chad Barton is the story of Jack Steele, a retired police officer that, once he has created a nebulous multimillion dollar company, spends his time hunting down sex offenders and killing them. He focuses primarily on pedophiles, but that doesn’t inhibit his vigilantism from slipping into other areas. From the blurb about the author, it seems as if this book is serving as more of a wish fulfillment project for him rather then being about good storytelling.
This book is filled with magical thinking…an evil and horrendous criminal has gotten an early release from a broken prison system and gone into hiding. Jack Steele, of course, always finds these people, the first time and every time, conveniently in an isolated area where he can kill them without any witnesses (even in the middle of New York.) And then this pattern repeats itself. You could read the first couple of chapters of this book, and then skip to the last few chapters of this book and get the whole story. Everything else is a theme and variation on the same thing.
Barton is not a bad writer, just inexperienced. He would do so much better if he focused on fewer elements rather than repeating the same paradigm over and over.That would allow him to better develop his characters and the relationships that arise. There is too much short-handedness…he has created a multimillion dollar business that provides him ample money and a private plane with a crew to do anything that he wants, but we have no idea what that business is. A chance meeting in a park instantly becomes the perfect relationship with no conflict. When stuck, his buddy Rocco always has the information that has eluded every agency in the world. His dog is the perfect companion with extraordinary skills…what is the background?
His style and storytelling do come together in Chapter 27: Love and Loyalty. This is a chapter unlike any of the others, and it really works. The plot moved quickly and it was engaging and intriguing all at the same time. I wish that there had been more of that kind of writing.
There are also some horrible plot devices…receiving the hard drive from the forger that contains all of past and present information on the worst criminals that have gone into hiding…apparently when you go to the underground forger for a new identity, you fill out a questionnaire and tell him everything that you’ve done in the past, providing pictures and addresses; and then you make sure that he has all of your current information as well, which he then keeps on file. Then there is the sequence with Jack pulling a gun on a New York detective in a church with his dog growling and preventing his escape, so that Jack can give the detective information on a pedophile that’s after his daughter (and again, no one takes notice or sees anything)—it is both unnecessary and implausible.
The book seems to be filled with Barton’s own political frustrations and agendas, and the only solution he offers is to go out and shoot the people. As a storyteller, his future novels would be greatly served from exploring other points of view.