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The Kafka Society

The Kafka Society - Ron Felber Received a copy of The Kafka Society : A Jack Madson Novel by Ron Felber through the First Reads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review

"Kafkaesque is when you enter a surreal world in which all you
control begins to fall to pieces and you find yourself battling
a force that does not lend itself to the way you perceive the
world. You don't give up, you don't lay down and die. What you do
is struggle with whatever strength you possess. But, you for
course, you don't stand a chance. That's Kafkaesque, and one's
resignation to that reality, forms the basis of existentialism."

The book starts with Jack in jail for the double-murder of a highly-sought out prostitute and "acclaimed" pornographic movie star named Havana Spice and an Assistant FBI Director Thomas H. Dougherty. The peculiar thing about Mr. Dougherty is that he also happens to be a high school friend of Jack. Unfortunately for Jack he doesn't possess the most becoming of dispositions and his personality doesn't respond well to proper decorum which leads to the overwhelming feeling that he is guilty before being proven innocent. With the help of his court appointed lawyer Jimmy Bryant and his ex-girlfriend/confidante/lawyer Vicky Benson, Jack is able to get bail and get out of jail. The problem with Jack is that he literally and figuratively has trouble keeping his nose clean. The whole idea of the book is that since you are privileged to the end point of the story from the main characters perspective, the author takes you on the journey and to find out the truth of what, why, and how everything came to be.

To get to the end you need to understand a little about Jack's past life. He was born Jack O'Brian in Newark, New Jersey to an abusive truck driving father and a promiscuous, subservient mother. As a child Jack was relentlessly picked on at school because of his life in poverty. In his early teenage years Jack witnessed his father's suicide by self-inflicted shotgun wound which has frequently and vividly revisited him in his dreams throughout the rest of his life. He was then enrolled in St.Damian's (yes, Damian, quite ominous wouldn't you agree), a Catholic high school where he became a Golden Gloves boxer and an action-oriented leader of a collection of troublemakers. Jack got through school with a few run-ins with authority but otherwise unscathed in comparison to his early years. Jack went on to go to Georgetown University and become a police officer in the D.C. Area where it was thought he turned a corner by operating on the right hand of the law. After a period of uneasiness he later returned to the Jersey area where he married the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice and was appointed Vice President of Operations at NuGeneration Holdings where he in turn, and by default became a wealthy man.Showcasing his worth and penchant for physical expression Jack was then moved to Portland, Oregon where he stole bio-technology and sold it to the Chinese. Feeling the heat from unrelenting Asians, Jack faked his own death, traveled to Mexico where he enjoyed a life centered on sex, drugs, and of course violence. While Jack was gone his wife Jennifer's mental state declined to the point where she became a patient at Greystone Psychiatric Clinic. His daughter Tiffany now a freshman at New York University blames him for the families untimely demise. As Jack decides to return home and start a sole driven Private Investigator firm, you soon realize that throughout all of his life he has gone down the path of greatest resistance, why on Earth would he stop now?

"Do you know what we say about the charlatans over at Homeland and
the CIA? We say 'the only way to uncover the truth is by comparing
their lies.' You see, they're not men like you and me, Jack. These,"
He struggled to find the word, "caricatures don't live in what you
and I would judge to be reality. No, they live in a world built
upon the lies they foment, so much so, they can no longer recognize
what is real. What is it they say about the difference between
neurotics and psychotic? Neurotics build sand castles in the sand
and the psychotics live in them.' Well that is what's at the core
of the American dilemma. It's Kafkaesque, this society we've
invented for ourselves. Like Joseph K in The Trial or Gregor Samsa
in Metamorphosis, we tell so many lies that one morning we wake up
to find the tables have turned. The truth becomes an estrangement
and it's within that house of lies that we're forced to live!"

As you get closer to the present of this book you learn that Jack is in Washington wanting to reconcile with his daughter but he knows it's going to take some work. Jack is currently staying at no cost at his good friend Eddie Lawlor's hotel, the Georgetown Inn where he runs his PI business. One morning Jack awakens to find a beautiful young woman leaving his room, in one of his all-to-frequent hangover hazes he realizes he has no idea who she is, how she got there, and what the hell happened last night? Sorting out the prior nights events he learns that their may have been a few transgressions. Like a bad Ashton Kutcher movie instead of Dude Where's My Car? It is more like Dude Why's There Blood All Over My Car (And a Severed Head In My Trunk)?

This book had all the elements of a good thriller, but it definitely resided on the grittier side of the genre. Near the end is where I feel the book separated itself from being average to a good read.
Secret societies, human trafficking, underground communities, existentialism, bone-chilling weaponry, drug reliant psychological manipulation, public vs private lives, incorruptibles, high ranking global officials, global takeover, Kafkaesque situations... This book certainly covered a lot of bases. Recommended for people that like a gripping thriller and possess a strong stomach.

"Formalin was the chemical agent Forensics had identified, Woods
told Vicky and me while at the Tombs in Georgetown: formalin,
phenols, methanol, and quaternary ammonium, all 'fixatives' used
by morticians to give the mortal remains of their clients the
appearance of one who was sleeping rather than dead. 'Dust to dust,
ashes to ashes,' the priest had proclaimed at the foot of Johnnie's
grave, but the chemical concoction identified by Woods' team and
injected into the Asian boy's cranium, and Johnnie's as well,
seemed the madman's attempt at circumventing the fate of all
things mortal, elevating his victim in some bizarre way to the
realm of...incorruptible."