“I gave the last rites to Joseph Hickey before they took him to the electric chair.
I remember the look on his face. I remember his twisted smile as I made the sign of the cross.
And I remember wanting to kill the sonofabitch with my bare hands.”
Near Death is my difficult second novel.
A departure from the blues, Near Death is a paranormal crime thriller set in New York and South Carolina in 1962.
Prison chaplain John Henry Beauregard, a troubled veteran of the Korean War, is called to the apartment of his friend and fellow war veteran, NYPD homicide detective Eugene Thompson. He finds Eugene drunk, and surrounded by photographs of the crime scene of a family killed by a psychopath called Joseph Hickey, now awaiting execution on Death Row.
The photographs, together with Eugene’s description of the full horror of the scene trigger a PTSD episode and subsequent crisis of faith.
John Henry administers the last rites to Hickey, who tells him that they will meet again very soon. John Henry witnesses the execution of Hickey, quits his job and moves to a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains in South Carolina.
Soon after, another family is murdered in identical circumstances by Clifford Webster, a loner with no apparent links to Joseph Hickey. Webster gives himself up to the NYPD and asks for John Henry to administer his last rites. Under pressure from the mayor to solve the case, the NYPD make Eugene the scapegoat, saying that Webster is a copycat who got hold of the original crime scene pictures due to Eugene’s carelessness.
Webster is executed and once more John Henry goes back to South Carolina. A few months later another family is killed in New York, and John Henry is drawn into a mystery that has devastating consequences and leads to a showdown where his life and soul are at stake.