Book review: ‘Liquid Shades of Blue’ by James Polkinghorn

‘Liquid Shades of Blue’ is the debut novel by James Polkinghorn. Photo: Amazon

James Polkinghorn is a lawyer and partner in a national law firm specializing in labor and employment law. He has extensive trial and litigation experience accumulated in multiple jurisdictions throughout the country. A Pittsburgh native, Polkinghorn moved with his family to Florida in high school, where he has since stayed. He has a degree in political science as well as a law degree from the University of Florida. He now lives in Key West with his wife, Becki, and their dog, Major Tom. In “Liquid Shades of Blue,” his first novel, after the death of his brother and now his mother, Jack Girard searches for the truth behind his family’s tragedies. (Amazon, 2023)

“Liquid Shades of Blue” – When hungover ex-lawyer and Key West bar owner Jack Girard groggily wakes up one morning, he is greeted by a beautiful woman lying next to him and a shrill, ringing telephone. The call is from his father, Claude “The Duke” Girard, who tells him that his mother is dead in an apparent suicide. Jack then heads back to his childhood home in Miami to face his tyrannical father. His mother’s death brings up haunting memories from Jack’s past—memories of his brother Bobby’s suicide when they were in college together. Being back in Miami only continues to dredge up his family traumas, but things grow more complicated when The Duke suggests that his estranged wife’s alleged suicide may have been a murder. As Jack begins to uncover the truth about his mother’s death, including the secret she had revealed to only two people—the same secret Bobby had taken with him to his grave—he finds himself in imminent danger. Can Jack reveal the true story before it is too late? He has to act quickly, or he fears he may be the victim of the next Girard family tragedy.

Jack Girard has not had an easy life. He comes from a well off family, but his brother committed suicide, his mother is now dead, and he is not in the best of terms with his father who refers to himself in the third person: ‘the Duke.’ This is a clear indication that his father is a strong willed person who demands respect and that what he says is not up for debate. Jack has tried to make a life for himself even after his career derails but when his mom dies, he has to return home. When his father asks him to look into his mother’s death, what he discovers comes as a big surprise. The plot twist at the end will take readers by surprise too. The characters are well developed and relatable. For a first novel, it certainly is impressive; the language is poetic at times: “the kaleidoscopic azure and green surface of Biscayne Bay glistening in the winter sun behind me” and as a whole, it reads like a fine work of literature. It is narrated in the first person point of view as experienced through Jack’s eyes. Even though it is a small book and an easy read, it is packed with action and is destined to become a classic. With interesting characters and beautiful prose, “Liquid Shades of Blue” is this year’s beach read and is recommended for readers who enjoy a good mystery novel. It is perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and Harlan Coben.

“By the time I passed the airport, the familiar orange and yellow disk had emerged from the sea, casting magnificent white and yellow reflections across the water to the sand. Four brown pelicans flying at my approximate pace were silhouetted against the sun as they began their morning search for baitfish near the ocean’s surface.”

*The author received a copy of this book for an honest review. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to her.

Rating: 4 out of 5.