About a hundred years ago, when I was still in college, a friend bought me a mystery novel - and I was hooked. I have always been a hard-core devotee of speculative fiction (science fiction/fantasy), but I'll read pretty much anything that grabs me, and mysteries - particularly police procedurals - have for a long time now run a close second to my beloved SF. The best ones, though, are not just whodunnits - they delve into the dark night of the psyche at the same time as they dig into the crime that forms the book's foundation.Four Corners of Night
is one of the best. Told through three different timelines - the childhood and early friendship of the narrator and his best friend/sometime partner, the unsolved kidnapping of the friend's daughter about seven years in the past, and the present day, in which another girl has gone missing, with frightening connections to the old crime -- the narrative cuts back and forth between them*, tying together the consequences of the past with the current puzzle.
* No signal is provided at the beginning of a chapter as to which timeline it covers - e.g., a date heading or other indicator - which some readers may find annoying or difficult to follow.
Holden does a bravura job of exploring the sometimes-unexplainable nature of human relationships, and portrays the police officers not as saints or monsters, but sometimes a combination of the two, and primarily as human and fallible. I particularly appreciated his depiction of how the main character, Mack, falls into a job as a police officer: still in school and unenthusiastic about pursuing a future career as an attorney, his childhood best friend Bank comes back into his life at a pivotal moment, and Mack abandons his education to join the force shortly after Bank does. On the surface, Mack is the brains of their partnership, and Bank the brawn, but Mack is fully aware he will never have the instinctive feel for police work - especially the art of cultivating relationships on the street - that Bank seems to come by naturally.
Holden shows the ebb and flow of the friendship between the two men over time: sometimes working side by side, day after day; sometimes estranged by distance or circumstance; but always a solid fact, resuming virtually unchanged despite a period of separation. At the same time, their individual stories are no open book, and even such a life-long pair have secrets from each other - and therein lies the heart of this book.