Dark secrets are like dead bodies—sometimes, they refuse to stay buried. It isn’t often I read a book that I have trouble putting down, but the Jokers Club grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. Gregory Bastianelli is a master at creating rich and fully-developed worlds and then inviting us to explore them with him. In Jokers Club, Bastianelli weaves what is seemingly a straightforward tale—years ago a group of friends were involved in a horrible accident, one that they have kept secret for all their lives. But now, at their first reunion in a decade, they begin to die, killed one by one at the hands of a mysterious assailant. Is one of their members the killer?
Even on its own terms, the tale that Bastianelli presents is rich and detailed enough to make a fine story, but he is not content to let us off so easily. Instead, he gives us a narrator in Geoff who is haunted by both the past and a tumor that is slowly consuming his brain. The story that he tells us—both in the form of his contemporary thoughts as well as his writings about the things that happened when he and his friends were boys—is often uncertain. The pictures Bastianelli expresses through Geoff only adds to the otherworldliness of the book’s style, creating a setting where even a stroll down the town boardwalk is a mysterious mystical adventure.
I recommend Jokers Club without reservation. My only wish is that Bastianelli had written more, for when we take the last turn and absorb the final twist, you are left wanting the story to continue.