December Boys by Joe Clifford

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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 junkie brother. He self-medicates with an increasing dose 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 uncover 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.

Author Joe Clifford

Author Joe Clifford

Note: I received an advanced copy of this work in exchange for a fair review.


Prison-for-profit scheme thrusts insurance investigator into his disturbing past—and extreme danger…

Jay Porter, the newest employee at North Eastern Insurance in New Hampshire, is investigating an accident claim when he learns the teenager behind the wheel was arrested for minor drug possession and sentenced to a hardcore behavioral modification center. At the county courthouse, Jay meets Nicki, a young college intern, who tips him off to a possible scandal–first-time juvenile offenders being shipped to private institutions for political kickbacks. He learns that long-time family nemeses, Adam and Michael Lombardi, may have a stake in the scheme. Is Jay’s mission to help these kids a legitimate crusade? Or is his thirst for revenge driven by the guilt he feels over his own junkie brother’s death? These questions conspire to tear apart tranquility and drive a wedge between Jay and his wife Jenny. With help from new friend Nicki, and a couple of old friends, Jay finds himself thrust back into a past he had hoped to leave behind, putting everything–and everyone he loves—at risk in pursuit of the truth.