Reading ‘In God’s House’ the début novel by Ray Mouton, was an intense and suspenseful experience. The prose was fresh and crisp and displayed a Hemingway-esque control and awareness of plot, character and narrative arc from beginning to end. As the story unfolded, I felt myself gripped and eventually shocked by the events, characters and emotions which were introduced to me throughout this deceptively-human but ultimately-epic story. I have reviewed many novels in the last 20+ years as a professional journalist but none hit me as hard as this.
I repeatedly found myself thinking of the masterful work by Mario Puzo, ‘The Godfather’ as I turned page after page of Mouton’s astonishing book. When I read Puzo’s seminal work, whilst being well aware La Cosa Nostra existed I wasn’t prepared for the journey it took me on nor for the education about its players, dramas and underlying themes. It wasn’t a book about the ‘Mafia’ it was a book about the violence men do, an Italian-immigrant family, cultural-loyalties, economic-survival, institutional-corruption and – above all – the roots of an American family.
Mouton’s novel touches deep emotions in similar, if not better, ways. This is not a story about ‘child-abuse.’ This is a wonderful and thought-provoking story of: ambition; professional-judgment; ethics-in-the-workplace; duty-to-family, community, profession and oneself; courage-of-all-forms; and the challenge of religious faith in the modern age.
Yes, Mouton tackles head-on a subject that’s in global headlines but he singularly enlightens the unsuspecting-reader about its street-level legal complexities, multi-layered realities and, ultimately, its appalling consequences.
Like Puzo’s masterpiece, it presents dreadful characters, shocking scenes and unforgettable outcomes. It simply stays with you after you’ve turned the final page.
But above all this is a novel in the purest literary sense: it takes the reader along a path that seems familiar but is revealed to be alien; it unveils truths in the midst of a sea of lies; and it paints a portrait of a lawyer who might not be the person he wanted to be, but is certainly a timeless, sympathetic and wholly human hero for our times for the rest us. In that sense there is an unmistakable – but updated to a modern setting and with possibly more raw intensity – similarity to Harper Lee’s classic hero Atticus Finch from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.
This novel succeeds in winning the reader’s trust by creating characters who accompany us on a journey into dark places and as a legal thriller effortlessly ranks on a par with the best his fellow Southern writer John Grisham has to offer (and I am thinking of Grisham’s best work – and his and my own personal favorite – ‘A Time to Kill’ which tackled the equally unsettling issue of racism in the South and also had a flawed but courageous hero in lawyer Jake Brigance. Yes, Mouton’s book is that good).
There have been many journalistic articles, many network documentaries and many newspaper commentaries across the globe written about the crisis within the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. Only one book has been written by the ultimate insider, and this book is by Ray Mouton.
Mouton’s novel takes you beyond the other places because it takes you into the very soul of the damaged Church of Peter. I doubt if any other work of fiction could address such a catastrophic event in such a powerful, accessible, authoritative and shockingly entertaining way. But – and this is important to impart – it triumphs because it left this reader with a feeling of hope that one good man can indeed, face evil down and against all the odds of hell, actually make a difference. That in itself is a testimony to what this author and this story has managed to achieve.
‘In God’s House’ by Ray Mouton is published by Head of Zeus and is available here.