Book review: 'King of the Bottom' offers page-turning intrigue in true noir mystery style

By Cecily Markland

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, June 9 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

"KING OF THE BOTTOM," by William C. Gordon, Bay Tree Publishing, $14.95, 282 pages (f)

In true noir murder mystery style, William C. Gordon’s latest novel, “King of the Bottom,” begins with the gruesome discovery of a body. In this case, it’s the body of Armand Hagopian, found hanging from the arch at the front gate of the industrial chemical dump he owns. Though Hagopian is a “big man” in the community, he has been tagged with the nickname “King of the Bottom” by the local bar owner, who said Hagopian “got rich doing something that no one else around wanted to do.”

Enter investigators, who quickly discover obvious clues and fingerprints that implicate four former Mexican employees who had tried to sue Hagopian. They had children who were born deformed and they claimed working at the dump had “ruined” them. The assistant district attorney, who is interested primarily in political gain, is all-too-eager to make it a cut and dried case

Yet, rookie crime reporter Samuel Hamilton, along with the attorney for the accused, Janak Marachak, believe the “obvious” is too much so. The two take it upon themselves to investigate the murder on their own. As they set about to unravel the facts and find out who else may have a beef against the prominent businessman, readers get to witness these characters’ quirky ways, including Samuel’s lack of confidence when it comes to love.

The novel is strong in its well-developed characters and in dialogue and description that offer a rich read. The author’s unfolding of clues keeps the reader absorbed as a much more complicated and sordid scenario of revenge and ancient violence is gradually uncovered.

The author, who is a San Francisco trial lawyer himself and a seasoned noir mystery writer, also portrays the investigation and trial in a believable way, making “King of the Bottom” an interesting and captivating read.

However, the novel is not for those who are averse to violence and to strong, adult language and themes. There are swear words scattered throughout as well as discussion of such things as the victim’s mutilation. In addition, an abortion is described and there are references to the physical abuse suffered by the women in Hagopian’s family.

If you go ...

What: Discussion with authors William C. Gordon and Isabel Allende

When: Friday, June 15, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Cecily Markland is a freelance writer, book editor, publicist and author of "Hope: One Mile Ahead" and the children’s book, "If I Made a Bug." She owns Inglestone Publishing and produces a calendar of LDS events in Arizona at www.cecilymarkland.com.

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