The Voice Of God written by Larry Maness and published by Mainly Murder Press is a skillfully crafted work of detective fiction. Maness, an author of three previous mystery novels, has, as usual, based his tale in the greater-Boston area. Provincetown is the main setting, and what a lavish setting it is. Maness’s eye for detail and painterly description allows him to conjure a location with the verisimilitude to make the reader feel he is walking along the those two main streets and numerous side streets while smelling the salty breeze of the ocean.
Maness, peering into modern day corruption, has invented a heinous crime that ripples through dimensions of local town history, Catholic guilt, the gay community, self-pity and redemption. Struggling with his own personal demons, former insurance fraud investigator Adilino Cardosa seeks to resolve the sudden and mysterious disappearance of a beloved local priest and with him a hundred thousand dollars in church funds. Cardosa, in a masterful touch by the author, is pulled into this case by his own soul. The dark mystery surrounding the priest’s final days may contain some answers in another more personal mystery, the tragic death of the protagonist’s own son.
Cardosa balances his role of private investigator with his life as a charter boat captain while dealing with the loss of his son, his own impending divorce, and the increasing mental fragility of his mother. Hence, Maness has developed a believable, three-dimensional character that most of his generation can easily identify with. Not only can readers identify with Cardosa, they can feel the toll taken on his mind, heart, and soul as he journeys towards redemption while sifting through clues, evidence, and the information he receives from some colorful characters.
The author, formerly a professor at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and Rivier University in Nashua, New Hampshire, maintains a powerful command of that field known as the English language. That a novel comprising numerous elements is as tightly woven as it is is a testament to Maness’s keen sense of narrative. His smooth flow of language in that narrative keeps the reader turning the page as much as the plot twists. The natural sound in character’s voices is another treat as well as a magnet pulling readers deeper into the story and the community it plays itself out in.
Provincetown is populated by the descendents of Portuguese fishermen who still fish the waters around them. Maness’s in depth knowledge of these local residents and their progressive community may inspire many of his readers to visit the town and to also take up fishing. This author’s details about the gear, boats, and location to bring in the big catch increases the reader’s appreciation for what goes into the art of casting a line.
The visual sense created in The Voice Of God, the Provincetown vibe, and the lingering implications of the crimes committed cry out for the novel to be captured in celluloid. A smart film director would have a lot to sink his teeth into.