The Blue Hour by Douglas Kennedy grabbed me and didn’t let me go until it was finished! In retrospect, I probably need to re-read it, because I was so wrapped up in finding out WTF was going to HAPPEN that I admit I raced through parts that should probably have been read at a more thoughtful pace…

Published elsewhere under the title Heat of Betrayal, the novel is set in Morocco, and revolves around Robin, a professional young woman (an accountant by day) and her artist husband Paul, who is a bit of a flake – but hey, he is an artist, right? So she has typically cut him quite a bit of slack as he is the less responsible (by far) in terms of finances and organization…not necessarily a bad thing, but the story quickly unrolls as a thrilling mystery where Robin needs to search for truth. The question becomes, do we ever really want the WHOLE truth?

Robin’s nature is revealed early, as she notes while trying to bribe a maid in their Moroccan hotel “what we are being is very American, I thought. Thinking that money can buy our way out of anything. “ And “I was having that kneejerk Western reaction to things North African; a belief that, with few exceptions, no one here was to be trusted.”

Without revealing too much, the basic plot is that this couple has gone to Morocco for a month…while there, she learns of a huge betrayal on his part, and furiously plans to leave, writing a note to him that basically says he should die. Then she goes for a walk and, when she returns, the room is bloody and he has disappeared, and guess who is the prime suspect? As Robin struggles to find out the truth about Paul, his disappearance, and his other family (WHAT?!?!), Kennedy does a great job spelling out her mental state” “That’s the problem with the worst sort of trauma. You can will it elsewhere. You can tell yourself you will somehow “manage” it. But you also begin to realize very quickly that you will be living with it for the rest of your life. Even if, somewhere down the line, you might come to terms with it, reach some sort of accommodation with its abhorrence, it will be with you forever. Your world has been inexorably changed.”

The whole elusive nature of truth is a main theme, as one of the characters tells Robin “I saw what I saw. But what any one of us sees…is that ever the truth? Or is it just what we want to see?”

The setting is critical to the story, and the author conveys the heat, the blinding sun, and the crowds in a way that made me FEEL like I was in North Africa (and desperately wanted to get the hell out). The characters were vivid, and none seemed like caricatures, as is often the case for mystery/thrillers set in remote locales.

Overall, I just loved this book. I am on the hunt for other books by Douglas Kennedy, and am very grateful to have had the opportunity to write a review of The Blue Hour in return for an advance copy (although I really think the other title (Heat of Betrayal) is better…just MHO).