BOOK REVIEW: ‘Dark Of The Center Line’ by Schuy R. Weishaar

Dark of the Center Line
Image of Dark of the center line cover
Cover from Herald Review

Often, when you’ve got your nose deep in a novel, the people around you like to ask questions – firstly what it is you’re reading, and then, when they haven’t heard of it, what it’s about.

And I had a seriously hard time explaining this book.

Dark of the Center Line, brilliant as it may be, is difficult. The story hurdles back and forth along a complex timeline completely unpredictably, leaving you wondering when in the book that last couple of pages is going to make any sense. Thankfully, by the last page everything falls into place and you’re left grinning at the cleverness of the whole thing, flicking back through the chapters to re-read paragraphs that can now be understood. I loved it.

The plot follows Abraham, a somewhat miraculous man – by which I mean that he arguably possesses Jesus-like powers of healing – on his journey preaching around the U.S. with three friends/assistants. Along the way, they stumble across a town which houses a chain of oddball characters that all end up in some way involved in a triple-murder. Abraham is accused of the crime and the story follows sheriffs, a priest, a dwarf, a mourning father and a mob of angry villagers as they try to uncover the truth behind the killings. In between hopelessly wise soliloquies from Abraham and accounts of his dreams (that complicate the storyline even more), a massive scandal is uncovered.

Panama, eat your heart out.

I was expecting a cliché in true murder mystery fashion, but Weishaar develops the thriller beyond simply ‘whodunit’ and gives us more details about the background and reasons for the killings.

Meanwhile, Abraham, who is believed by all but three of the characters to be the guilty party, is brutally beaten during his time in prison; the sour officers crave justice in the same way the outraged villagers do. After his release, a secret group of vengeful townsfolk locates the saintly protagonist, planning to make him suffer at their mercy.

I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll let you know that my jaw was pretty much on the floor reading the last few chapters – and I’m sure there’s a symbolic reason behind having two chapters numbered ‘13’.

Honestly, beyond the initial confusion surrounding the disjointed plot, I can’t pick out any flaws from this book. The writing style is clever but not pretentious, the parallels and allusions it shows are even cleverer and the characters are well developed yet still quite aloof and mysterious. My advice: read this book, and then read it again and again. Read between the lines; read beyond the lines – there’s a lot to be learned from a text as perceptive as this. Don’t miss it.

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