REVIEW: Black Diamond Fall, Joseph Olshan

Friday, 25 January 2019

Luc Flanders has just finished playing a game of pond hockey with his college roommates when he realizes he has lost something precious and goes back to the ice to find it. He never returns, and the police department in Middlebury, Vermont are divided in their assessment of what may have happened to him. Some feel that Flanders left on his own accord and is deliberately out of touch. Others, including detectives Nick Jenkins and Helen Kennedy, suspect that harm may have come to him. As the search for Luc Flanders widens and intensifies, suspicions about several different people, including his Middlebury College roommates and ex-girlfriend arise. Unfortunately, Sam Solomon an older man with whom Luc has been having a secret relationship, cannot prove his whereabouts during the hours when the younger man may have disappeared and Solomon, too, comes under suspicion. 
On the 5th of February 2008, Nicholas Garza left his friend’s dorm room at Middlebury College, Vermont, to walk the 500 yards through the late-night snow to his room. He never made it. Despite searches by the police and his friends, it takes nearly three months for his body to be found in the debris next to Otter Creek.
No, don’t worry, you didn’t read the synopsis wrong. Black Diamond Falls makes no mention of Nicholas Garza and his death that midwinter night. It takes a little person a little longer to search into the nitty-gritty of the novel and its background to find Nicholas Garza’s influence on its pages. 
Joseph Olshan found the inspiration for his novel in the events surrounding the case.
Which is usually okay. Absolutely great, fine. The world is an oyster to find inspiration from and all that. Numerous high-profile cases have found themselves planting the seeds in the minds of authors, playwrights, script-writers across the world since the advent of their formats and, where would the Oscars be if we didn’t have films based on real-life events?
The issue in this case is the way that Nicholas Garza’s family was treated over the course of the investigation. He was young, a college student and prone to the excesses that their first days of independence gives them. Alcohol may have contributed to his death, it may not have; the autopsy was inconclusive. He was originally from New Mexico, and in Vermont to study at the prestigious Middlebury College. 
The comments by the Chief of Police, amongst others (I mean, read them, they’re disgusting), about Nicholas Garza’s death are abhorrent; endlessly criticising his family, despite the fact they were who-knows-how-many miles away at the time of his death, and releasing the final report of his death without contacting them. 
“The way the Middlebury police have handled this has been disgusting." His mother said. 
"From the very beginning, the Middlebury police had the idea that it was a dumb, drunk frat boy who found a way to do damage to himself,” His sister added.
And, because of the grief and the mishandling of the case that the Garza family had to deal with, I couldn’t help but think about how they must feel about someone using their tragedy as a writing prompt.
This was only compounded by the lazy, racial stereotypes and casual racism used by the author. I mean, come on?!?! 
No, no, no.
Do it well, or don’t do it at all.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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