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The Great Leader (2011)

The Great Leader (2011)

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3.47 of 5 Votes: 5
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0802119700 (ISBN13: 9780802119704)
Grove Press

About book The Great Leader (2011)

I wondered why Harrison decided to write this novel as a detective story, when that part of it was quite farcical. The better story was that about the just-retired detective coming to terms with a divorce from his lifelong partner, his partiality to alcohol, his flagging libido that is transforming him into a dirty old man, and the prospect of retirement itself. His retirement party ends up in a sexual incident that sets Sunderson off as no better than the sexual predators he had pursued as a cop.What follows is a rambling narrative of ex-detective Sunderson's travels from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Arizona and back as he latches on to a final case that he is determined to solve before going out to pasture. The hunt gives Sunderson the excuse to delay retirement for just a bit more. The case itself is to prove that a charismatic religious cult leader is a pedophile and a con artist. The challenge for Sunderson is that he himself is having fantasies over his 16 year old neighbour, Mona, who undresses for his benefit with her bedroom window open.Mona is a conflicted young woman, living with absentee parents and looking at Sunderson and his ex-wife as surrogate parents. She also becomes his technical research assistant feeding Sunderson with the dirt on the cult leader's shadowy life.What worked for me in this book is that Harrison lays his protagonist bare, warts and all. Sunderson's rabid sex drive is his lifeforce under threat, and therefore transcends sleaze to sympathy. The scenes of the outdoors are well drawn and one gets a sense, feel and taste of the terrain that Sunderson traverses. His recurring guilt over the divorce, his raging libidinous dreams, and his frightening thoughts of being a nobody, post-retirement, weave in and out of the narrative, while Sunderson liberally tanks up with plenty of alcohol along his peregrinations.That Sunderson is able to reconcile his feelings towards Mona and his ex-wife without breaching the bounds of propriety, while the great cult leader goes from bad to worse in his assaults on young girls, is what sets apart hero from villain. Perhaps this contrast is needed for us to understand Sunderson, but the title of Great Leader is a misnomer for the cult leader is just a foil in this novel which is really the story about our Great Detective. Harrison tackles his frequent themes of religion, sex and death in the tale of a charismatic cult fraud and the detective (the narrator) who dogs him. Sanderson, the cop, stumbles through his divorce, retirement and fixation on teenage Mona, his Lolita, and eventually cooks the Great Leader's golden goose in a way you might not imagine.Notable Quote: "Biology defeats philosophy in the first round." (Page 81)"Nothing has changed since Cain slew Able." (Page 281)"A creek is more powerful than despair." (Page 296)

Do You like book The Great Leader (2011)?

Another one of Harrison's literary hits!

good story well drawn characters

Sort of a lukewarm mess.


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