December Boys is the second in Joe Clifford’s Jay Porter series. Just as dark as the first in the series, Lamentation, December Boys moves more quickly without a wasted word. Clifford’s prose is gritty and moody, yet beautiful, with lines that shine like a Jacob’s ladder. The New England winter, with its aching, biting cold, snow and dirty roadside slush, is a recurrent motif.
Jay Porter is a seriously flawed character with deep psychological issues that commence with the death of his parents in his childhood followed by his brother’s “suicide by cop” which occurred in Lamentation.
He now has a 9-5 job as an insurance claims investigator and has married the love of his life, Jenny, but can’t hold his life together. He remains haunted by the deaths of family and the guilt he feels over being unable to save his junky brother. He self-medicates with an increasing does of alcohol. Though he tries to provide a home for Jenny and his son, Aiden, she leaves him because, though present in her life, he isn’t really there.
He remains obsessed by the Lombardi case that got him in trouble in Lamentation. In December Boys, he works with Nicki, a courthouse employee (and Jay’s newest temptation) to undercover the dark secrets of the Lombardis in a new scam. His involvement nearly costs him his life.
Jay is not particularly likable but is a sympathetic character as the reader becomes acquainted with him and his many problems including PTSD, an anxiety disorder, and a relentless paranoia over the Lombardis. Porter has an underlying morality and tries to do the right thing, including not cheating on his wife, but he invariably undercuts his own efforts.