BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blog Tour Review & Excerpt: Silhouette of Virtue: A Novel by Jay Richards

Publisher: Face Rock Press
Format Read: Paperback
Source: From PR firm for an honest review
Release Date: June 2, 2014
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | OmniLit* | Barnes & Noble
* affiliate links; the blog receives a small commission from purchases made through these links.

Blurb from goodreads:

A gripping psychological thriller from one of America's leading psychopathy experts that explores race, the criminal mind, and the changing cultural landscape of Vietnam Era America.

It's 1973. America is in the throes of Watergate, Vietnam, and increasingly heated racial tensions. A small college town in Southern Illinois is terrorized by a spree of sadistic sexual assaults against young Asian women, purportedly by a black man seeking payback for America's betrayal in Vietnam.

Acting more on suspicion than evidence, the all-white police force arrests a black theater instructor and Vietnam vet. His only African American colleague, philosophy professor Nathan "Ribs" Rivers, finds himself in the unlikely position of leading a coalition of student and faculty groups advocating for a fair trial, despite his own doubts about the suspect's innocence.

As the case intensifies, Professor Rivers uncovers a shocking web of conspiracy, underground activity, and psychopathy. He embarks on a vision quest for the truth about the crimes and his own character that threatens to topple his family and career, ignites in him a spiritual crisis, and plunges him headlong toward lethal unknowns.

Silhouette of Virtue is more than just a gripping psychological thriller. Through the complex story, which is based on true events from the author's own life, Jay Richards provides a penetrating look at some of the most complex and challenging issues facing American society, then and now. As a forensic psychologist with more than three decades of experience diagnosing and studying psychopaths and sex offenders, Richards offers an authentic portrayal of the complex characters and weaves together the culture and politics of the era with racial tension, mystery, and suspense.

Steph's Thoughts:

This book looked interesting when the review request came in so I accepted it. Silhouette of Virtue is not an easy read. The author has an incredible mastery of the English language, which is pretty nice for a change. However, this book is not one you can pick up and read in one sitting. For me, books fall into a couple of categories. This one falls into the “Must be able to think while reading”. You cannot pick up this book after a long stressful day at work and hope to melt your stress away.

Silhouette of Virtue requires one to be able to think and use that thought while reading. I found myself using a dictionary more than once.  . The majority of the time when I want to read a book, it is because I have had a rough day at work, come home to care for a preschool age child and I want to lose myself in a story. I found it hard to get into this story because it does require you to use your brain. It was much easier to read on my day off, rather than after a crazy day. The characters are complex and so is the story. Is it interesting? Yes, if you can get into it. Getting to see inside the mind of a man of a different race, during a time of high racial tensions in this country was pretty interesting and was an eye-opening experience.

 If you want a light read with lots of fluff, this is not the book for you. However, if you want a book that will give you some insight on politics and racial tensions in the 1970’s and you are prepared to use your brain while reading, then this is the book for you.


Telltale Lights and Triple Trouble

Welts had risen on his left arm above a puncture that barely breached the deepest layer of skin, just enough to draw a single purple bead of blood from the dark curve of his forearm. He washed the shallow wound repeatedly in the clear, icy spring outside the cave and dabbed on antibacterial jelly. First things first. He was intent on getting warm and having some damned coffee. He built a small fire and drank the hot, bitter brew from a tin cup (he had used too much powder) as he collected his thoughts and feelings.

In the moment of his encounter with the fox, he was not seeking animal guides and mystical communion. But now he was trying to fit the experience into the best framework available to him, the one that included the most and left out the least. He knew little of Indian animal totems and their meanings beyond the idea that they were psychic mirrors, deep pools where aspects of primal consciousness floated, enjoying independence from humanity before the womb and after death. He recalled his first thought as the animal had materialized. He had wanted Bear, strength and sovereignty, but Fox had come to him instead. His arm stung; he was glad it had not been Bear after all.

Fox had something to do with the sun, with shape-shifting and, of course, the cunning trickster. Learning to be invisible, quiet, and observant, holding one’s counsel, finding harmony in the four directions. The Pharaonic Egyptian vision of Fox was much darker. Seth, the deserter, drunkard, fomenter of confusion, who killed his brother Osiris and, by scattering the severed body parts like seeds to the wind, became the unwilling instrument of Osiris’ perpetual rebirth. Seth, the envious god, usually appeared with the head of a fennec fox or some fabulous foxlike animal. That was a life or death connection. A dead-end, Rivers thought.

And what of the words he had received? Wet stones, sunlight on water. He did feel his path crossing something, someone. After all, he had come into the forest intending to encounter himself and to cross the bad brother—the brother he never had—Duncan.

He took his time climbing down to the river, and fished until almost midday, quitting satisfied, having caught nothing, but also having cast out and reeled in a thousand thoughts. The sun had warmed the woods enough that, on the return climb, he first opened and later shed his parka. He stopped to lie on the dry grass at the crest of the ridge, enjoying the sun strike his exposed neck and penetrate his wool shirt. He decided that if he didn’t find anything leading him to
Carper or Duncan that day, he would gather his things the next morning and follow the river back to where he had left the hiking trail. He could call Harlan from the diner in that outpost. Maybe, just maybe, Harlan would recommend that he keep looking for a while. Maybe his plan wasn’t totally ridiculous. But for the moment, Rivers had left off searching in earnest for the men he believed were the keystones that held together a heavy and twisted arch of deception.
He spent the day much as he had the last, but didn’t go as far away from his base of operations. He was less eager about covering big stretches of land, and wary of tiring himself out again. As night fell, he decided to use the last few minutes of good light to climb up the ravine ledge where he was sure to find some thick pieces of dry hardwood for a long-lasting fire. He moved slowly, using his diamond willow pole to push away brush, but protecting its newly hardened point, not using it to lift or balance his weight.

Only a few hundred feet up the bluff, a pinpoint of red light low in the sky hovered for a moment and was gone. He stopped in midstep and crouched instinctively. He knew the flash could not possibly be Mars or Sirius (too low in the sky for the first and in the wrong direction for the other), and he had seen no aircraft since he left Oakton.

When he began to doubt the perception as anything more than an illusion, a pinpoint of red light bobbed, this time for a few seconds before going dark.

He focused his eyes through the dusk and the evening fog rising from the river basin. At the top of the ravine, about a quarter of a mile away, he made out the silhouette of a standing man, and the red dot, he knew, was the ember of a burning cigarette. The standing man had probably used a butane lighter or a match; either could have burned brightly enough and long enough to catch his attention.

Rivers felt exposed, but knew objectively that the fog and dusk made it virtually impossible for them to see him unless, like the smoker, he foolishly stood erect against the horizon; and any path he could take toward them would be uphill. Less than half an hour of twilight remained. He approached, turning his attention from the spot where his eyes had left the silhouette, and focusing instead on every twig crushed by his boots, every brush that scoured or slapped his shoulders, and to how the dry leaves underfoot crackled almost as an echo of those that writhed up and fell quiet to the irregular pulse of the breeze.

When he turned his attention upward, he saw the dark outlines of two men having difficulty coordinating maneuvering a large amount of canvas. It looked like a comic shadow play of two old maids folding laundry and finding themselves at odds over whether a fold should be right or left, over or under. Rivers fleetingly thought of how Indonesian stick puppets replay the Bhagavad Gita, or mock the foibles of the lesser gods. If they stayed and built a fire—he thought, refocusing himself on his goal—he could easily go in and confront them from the darkness.

He found himself more worried about what he would say than about the dangerousness of the confrontation. The possibility remained that these were the wrong two men, and he was about to barge into a peaceful campsite with a service revolver.

But there was no revolver, the safety and comfort of the cave had been so seductive that, without quite deciding to do so, he had left it safe and dry in the backpack within the cave. He realized that  after days of beating himself up for being a fool lost in fantasies about manhunts in the wilderness and vision quests, time had come for him think on his feet and act decisively, or miss the chance to create something of value out of all the mistakes he had made.

The two men lit a small fire, and soon they were no longer dark outlines, but discernibly Carper and Duncan. Several times they disappeared into the nearby blackness and shambled back, shoulders hunched from burdens. They were building a bonfire. The abundance of easily harvested dry wood in this place gave Rivers a causal line to tack onto the synchronism of his running into them: they were camping on the dry upland because it was abundant in precut, seasoned hardwood, leftovers from pre-park lumbering. The bluff plateau’s panoramic view over the bluff and across the floodplain gave them the advantage of forewarning, if anyone approached them in daylight: another advantage of the place. 

They could not have just arrived in the forest, and must have changed camps because they had tired of hiding uneventfully in the middle of nowhere and decided there was little reason not to make life easy for themselves. They obviously did not share Rivers’ distaste for the old logging sites that were almost clear-falls, the scars and disfigurement from careless exploitation of an ancient mixed forest. This bluff plateau site was no exception. It was strewn with timber cut from a fair sample of upper woodlands species. An inventory of the wastage would include sugar maples, yellow poplars, scarlet and white oaks, a smaller number of conifers, and a few stray cherrybark trees. Whole felled trees, odd chunks, and smooth rounds with rings marking the years from seedling to tumbling. They were left all in a jumble, as if a spoiled child had kicked over his Legos before abandoning them to the elements. Carper and Duncan may have been drawn to the place by the idea that they would be monopolizing a commodity. To a woodsman overwintering here in a harsh year, the value of the cut wood on the plateau was like the value of fresh water in an open boat at sea.

Rivers inched his way close enough to make out their features, but only as confirmations of the familiar. He could take in no nuances, or expressions. There was no rational reason for his needing to see their faces—he no longer harbored doubts about their identities—but a strong irrational desire to see Duncan’s face tugged at him, the desire to see the man who had used Rivers’ weaknesses and pretensions to virtue against him to deceive and manipulate him, play him as one of his shadow puppets.

Rivers struggled with the impulse to close in, but the time was not right. They were still meandering around the fire to keep it growing, and pulling some limp objects from a canvas bag.
Duncan walked away from where Rivers was, and into the shadows. Rivers could make out that he cradled something under one arm, while the other was making a pumping action on the object. Pumping up a basketball came to Rivers’ mind. He reminded himself of the lazy habits of association—they give you back less than what you started with. Duncan placed the object on a chest-high stump, and flicked a butane lighter—probably the one that gave their location away to Rivers—and held the butane flame to the base of the object. The additional light from the lighter and the logic of the actions told Rivers it was a fuel-burning lantern.

A few moments later, purple, blue, and orange flames swirled inside the lantern’s globe for a moment, and then billowed over the edge, flowing down the lantern’s surface toward Duncan’s busy fingers on the gas gauge. In the colored light, Rivers could see that Duncan grimaced as he worked the dial, determined to keep the lantern burning on the first try, and to avoid the pain and defeat of being singed, which would be magnified by Carper seeing it happen. Duncan’s grimaced face danced in colored light like a macabre Mardi Gras mask. Then Duncan got it right. The lantern’s twin mantles glowed for a moment like the eyes of a lion stalking prey by dim moonlight. The brightening flames stealthily approached the threshold of white heat and then pounced upon it. With that silent explosion, the lantern cast against the night a shell whose surface enclosed a small campsite, but whose volume was infinitely replete with lines and planes of blinding and constant light.

Rivers crouched down instinctively, although the dome of brightness surrounding the campsite was yards away. His sight had been tuned to squinting at shadow men and shadow objects lit by undulating flames and the red glow of wood coals. Since he entered the forest, until the lighting of the lantern, the bonfire had been the most intense light he had seen except when he had looked at the midday the sun. The world that the Coleman had brought into being instantaneously was solid, constant, and incontrovertibly real. In a moment of irrationality, Rivers felt with conviction that the men in the campsite must surely be able to see him just as clearly and solidly.
The stun of looking from the night into artificial daylight inflicted on Rivers a low-grade night blindness. When the colored light played over Duncan, Rivers took a mental snapshot, a close-up of the face that had been a direful beacon to him for over a year. After the lantern flared, “seeing” Duncan became a peculiar conjunction of experiences, in fact, a conjunction of three Duncans. First, was his fixed memory snapshot of Duncan grimacing in colored lights.

The second Duncan was as easy to see as anything else in the dome of light cast by the lantern. That Duncan was sitting on a crosscut round, seemingly directing or criticizing Carper, who was doing some kind of work. Due to the shock his eyes had taken, it was now impossible for Rivers to see the features of either man in any detail. In only milliseconds, the naphtha light had tripped tens of millions of receptors on, and another tens of millions off. (Rivers believed that the true workings of these perceptual shifts was still the providence of theory. In contrast, he knew as matter of fact—by analysis and by painful firsthand experience—that events can happen at speeds too fast for flesh to catch up.)

The third Duncan was a sensory artifact that had been imprinted on Rivers’ photoreceptors when the gas lantern flashed to white light. The subcellular circuit breakers that would eventually erase this Duncan were on the whack, and had not been flipped back on by homeostasis, the body’s Greek stationary engineer. This Duncan would not disappear when he closed his eyes, or looked away from the lantern light, or directed his inner vision to concentrate on something else.

The thought of Duncan’s face imprinted on his cells, even momentarily, by a common phenomenon that only fighter pilots had to take seriously, confounded him. But it also led Rivers to think in words,ideas that had been previously been intuitions. The idea dawning on him was that Duncan was his bright negative. Duncan was resplendent in his own way, but his energy was a frequency of light that clashed with his own, like energy and anti-energy in sci-fi novels, or the Green Lanterns versus the Black Lanterns in the DC Comics universe. And maybe they were not those kinds of mutually exclusive, antagonistic opposites, but each of them particularized qualities that were like yin and yang, co-creating and inseparable, a union of necessary opposites, that had never found its center of gravity.

Slowly his eyes adjusted, and he resurveyed his situation. He would soon see them more clearly than he had before, but could he get close enough to hear what they might be saying?
Absent disruption of the prevailing wind by a storm system, the warmer air drained from the heights each night. This meant that Rivers’ downhill position, usually the underdog position, was also downwind of the reveling fire they built. This was the second time tonight that being in what was usually the less desirable downhill position was working to his advantage.
A mixture of different smells washed around him: the smell of dry and green wood, of tar and pine resin from conifer logs, and the sweet pie aroma of plum wood on the bonfire. Sound drifted downhill as well, the firecrackering and softer crackle of burning timber, the clunking rumble of logs collapsing and reshaping the pyre, the low woofing and hoarse tiger chuffing of flames unfurling and retreating.

Excerpted from the book SILHOUETTE OF VIRUTE by Jay Richards.  Copyright © 2014 by Jay Richards.  Reprinted with permission of Face Rock Press.  All rights reserved


  1. I don't think this one is necessarily for me as I tend to an escapist reader. Like you I tend to pick them up at the end of a stressful day. While this does sound interesting I think I'll pass though I do know a few people who might enjoy it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I don't think this would be a good one for me either. I do tend to want escapist fare.

  2. I'm with Katherine - probably not the best book for me. My job entails a lot of intellectually challenging reading; it tends to leave me wanting something lighter at the end of the day! Still, I'm glad you found this book interesting and thought provoking. :-)

  3. I like the synopsis but I think I'm more on the fluff side than the intellectual side when it comes to reading. I don't like books where I have to stop and look up words a lot (one or two is ok) for example as it just pulls me out of the book.


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