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Spotlight on: The Hoax by Adrienne Jones

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The Hoax by Adrienne Jones Adrienne Jones, The Hoax

Kids want a savior and don't need a fake. I want to be elected.
We're all gonna rock to the rules that I make. I want to be elected.

--Alice Cooper, "Elected"

"Maybe you don't know your friends as well as you think you do," Betsy said.
Patrick looked at her and smirked. "Yeah. I've been hearing that one a lot lately."

--from The Hoax

Adrienne Jones is a woman without fear. Her choice not to be restrained by genre conventions -- or even by genres themselves, leaping from one to another as it fits her story -- has resulted in some of the most fascinating fiction being produced today. Her first novel, The Hoax is a far cry from her previous novella, Temple of Cod, both in subject and in execution, but they both retain that inimitable spark that lets you know you're reading an Adrienne Jones creation.

Patrick Obrien, Joey Duvaine, and Melvin Shepherd have been inseparable since high school. Patrick thought he knew his closest friends better than anyone else, but now, ten years later, their friendship is being tested. Joey's family members are being killed off mysteriously, and he doesn't seem to care. In fact, Joey and Shep are already making plans to use the Duvaine fortune to fund a modern-day miracle that will gain innumerable followers to their new religion: one with Joey as Messiah and Shep, most importantly, as treasurer.

They want Patrick to join them, but he wants none of it. Unfortunately, the three are bound by a bond stronger than friendship, one that will keep them together despite Patrick's will to the contrary.

That's only the first 50 pages of the strangeness in store for readers of The Hoax. Just when you think you might have figured out where the plot is leading, Jones throws in another surprise or reveals another secret, and you're right back in the dark. And none of these surprises seem forced; the way she incorporates them is entirely organic to everything we've already discovered about the characters -- this is a woman who knows her characters inside and out. Plus, Jones gives us a solid foundation in reality, so that when things turn mythical, we can stay grounded. Her imagination seems boundless, and she's not afraid to give it space to flower, but she knows just how to focus it to make her story progress just the way she planned. In a word, she's brilliant.

Jones gives us characters to care about. Even the villain, with his mind set on "improving humanity" by his own means, is easy to empathize with and therefore impossible to hate. All of her main characters (and there are several) are fantastically individual -- you're likely to remember them as you do people you've actually met -- but she is just as good at supporting roles, bringing their stories and personalities into sharp focus quickly, so the plot doesn't flag.

The Hoax is that rarity -- a book for everyone. Mystery/thriller fans will be thrilled by the suspenseful plot and keep guessing at twists and turns; horror hounds will take to the more brutal scenes; lovers of fantasy and mythology will enjoy the stunning discoveries; and mainstream literary aficionados can delve deeply into the characters, their relationships, and their motivations.

Speaking of literary fiction, I had a similar experience reading this book as I did reading The Tin Drum (coincidentally, a character in each has a powerful scream): they're both great books with engaging storylines and terrific characters that are densely written so you have to read every word to keep up with the nuances of their plots. Now, I'm not saying that Adrienne Jones's first novel is exactly on the level of Gunter Grass's masterwork (also his first), but most novels contain a lot of filler, and The Hoax is 100% pure story that takes a lot of effort, but is absolutely worth it in the end. This is definitely going on my book of the year list, and I'm already looking forward to the proposed sequel. Even my wife loved it, and she never reads "those weird books you get."

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