Mathis, Bill. “Revenge is Necessary”, Rogue Phoenix Press, 2020.
I spent New Year’s Day, 2020 on the edge of my chair reading Bill Mathis’s new novel, “Revenge is Necessary”. It took me into a world far away from Covid-19 and that would have been reason enough to become involved in this story of revenge. But it is also one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time, so much so that I did not move until after I read the last page.
We meet Shaw Skogman, a successful farmer who “loses it” and tries to kill his wife and son by firing a shotgun at them. Shaw suffers a severe leg wound and chooses to die rather than have his leg amputated and his family becomes privy to secrets of the man’s life. There was Melvin, his nervous right-hand man and the fact that Shaw’s first wife committed suicide—or so we thought. Then there is gay undertaker, a sheriff in the closet and two gay teens. There were also secrets about his second wife.
We begin with Shaw learning a secret about his own mother. Shaw’s wife, Connie, fought her husband to gain control of the rifle that he was wielding and his left leg is blown off. Choosing to die unleashes Shaw’s mother’s secret and the man’s own hidden life. Truth flies out of the window as the secrets of others are also exposed. The Shaw that others thought they knew was far from the man that he really was. To say that he and his family were dysfunctional is an understatement.
Because the story is based on the uncovering of secrets, limits what I can say about the plot that is filled with twists and turns and will keep you guessing and turning pages quickly. You either love or hate the characters and my feelings about them were in flux during the entire read. We do not usually read about rural settings such as this one where all kinds of love situations exist along side of abuse, deception, love and care for one another. It is great fun uncovering the various layers of the characters we meet here. Mixing gay characters into issues of mental dysfunction and societal problems works beautifully to give us a very different look at a Midwestern farm community. This is a story about family and how rage devastates and is not one you will forget anytime soon.