Freeman – Clare London (MLR Press)

Buy it now direct from MLR Press or from out Amazon.com store – Freeman
 

The very first sentence of London’s
“Freeman,” sets a tone of indomitable noir. There is the tough, man
of few words, Freeman—not Mister, no, just Freeman—upon a bar stool in a seedy
joint where he finds, if not comfort, familiarity with the “…ugly…dark
decor that reflected more the patrons’ need for discretion and swift, nameless
hook-up than for stylish interior decoration. But then I wasn’t there for the
trimmings, either. It was just somewhere to be.”

The read gradually eases into
storytelling less noir, and more reflective of London’s talent for providing
the reader with the protagonist’s turmoil, strengths, insecurities, and
always—to the final word of novel—his mystery. Who is Freeman? We never really
get to the essence of who this man really is.

Freeman tells us that he,
“…finds things for people. Source[s] them. Cars, properties, retail
goods, collectibles. Information…research. Whatever they want and will pay
for.” Private dick? Maybe. Maybe not. I came away from the novel not
really knowing what Freeman’s thing
is. Intentional omission on London’s part? Probably.

We do know that Freeman has history
with George, an entrepreneur who controls several enterprises—including the gay
bar in which Freeman first presents himself—a history that was good,
productive, lucrative…purely in a business sense. During that history—and the
timeframe is a little cloudy here—Freeman was married to a woman, and was
apparently in love, or lust?, with one of George’s underlings, Miki, a
strapping, dark-complected hunk who, we get the impression, enjoyed rough sex
with Freeman. Somewhere along the line in this history, George steps over to
the dark side with his business ventures, and, as a consequence, Freeman ends
his dealings with George, leaves Miki and goes…somewhere. Again the mystery.

Freeman does return, however, and
finds himself in George’s ugly, dark bar, sitting on a stool where he
encounters a young man—one of George’s kept boys, who is expected to and does,
um, service George. We also discover as the story progresses, George has
married Freeman’s ex-wife. Additionally, we learn that Freeman’s return to the
scene of George’s now surly undertakings, is for the express purpose of
exposing George, and ending his nefarious operations.

Enter now the young man—George’s
kept boy from the ugly bar—who Freeman quite tentatively, certainly warily
allows to step into his life. The young man will not reveal his name (for good
reason) to Freeman, so Freeman nicknames him Kit…perhaps an apt moniker for
the long-haired, headstrong, lithe, horny, barely-legal kid he proves to be. 

London’s forte with this tale is
clearly, at once, her passion to keep Freeman as a rather amorphous character,
whose past is cloudy, not really defined. That we, as readers, might want to
know more about Freeman is perhaps London’s tease; something that—as she gives
us a wink and a sly smile—she might, just might expose in future works. We
await the exposure. Freeman is, after all, a character we want to know.

But it is in London’s ability to
creep, ever so slowly, into Freeman’s noir persona with regard to his
relationship with Kit, where we find her other passion within this novel: the
possibility of love amongst two unlikely partners.

Whether there is a HEA ending this
story, is something you will have to find out for yourselves. Perhaps a hint
from Freeman’s conclusions: “There was something about having him [Kit]
beside me – something about the vibrant way he spoke, moved, thought. I’d never
spent much time on the concept of happiness. Things in life were either
good…or they weren’t. Kit had made me rethink many things.”

I enjoyed this book. I recommend
this book for those who crave noir, mystery, detecting, and the potential for
love within the backdrop of improbability.

Reviewed by George Seaton

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