Walter is a math prodigy who found his place on Wall Street, with his seemingly perfect job and family, he finds himself becoming a father figure for his daughter’s best friend, Amanda. Her single mother is often unavailable to her, but when the financial crisis hits in 2008 he loses his job and the life that he once had. His wife leaves with their daughter, but Amanda is still seeking family. K.C. Maher crafts a story that examines relationships and connections that arise in emotional situations. She does note in her author bio and in comments on the book that there are elements that challenge the limits of what is appropriate and her work has been noted by her lawyer husband as being outside of the standard.
The Best of Crimes opens with Walter confessing to kidnapping in a New York police station and insisting that he be charged. What appears baffling is that the police do not want to push charges as no one wishes to prosecute, but Walter won’t go home, even though this will lead to a felony charge. The story then leaps backward in time to 1999 when Walter, our narrator, is starting his brand new job on Wall Street. At just 18 he has been fixated on his education and now that he has been dropped into adulthood he is now eager to start growing up. After meeting Sterling, his soon to be wife, on the first day of his job everything starts to move rapidly. By 2000 their daughter, Olivia, is born and while this was a beautiful moment, things will begin to change on September 11th 2001. After surviving the attacks, Walter finds himself fed up with his work and finds a new happiness spending time with Olivia and her new best friend Amanda. After losing his prestigious job, Walter finds other work, but it is nowhere near the level that he once was. While Walter finds the freedom he gains by being able to leave early and spend time with Olivia and Amanda, Sterling has begun to grow distant and eventually she finds a reason to leave with Olivia. Amanda is even more alone after that moment and craves attention from Walter and while he wants to be a supportive figure for her, he also finds himself shoving feelings deep down.
Maher’s story is complicated and complex. Told primarily from Walter’s point of view, with one final chapter from Amanda’s, the reader is given a sort of insight that shows a vast complexity of emotion. She never casts Walter as a villain, but instead as a kind man who had hoped to remain close with his daughter and watch her grow up. When this opportunity is taken from him by his wife, he finds himself becoming more and more of a father to Amanda. He loves her, but while he can feel tinges of emotion that are beyond the fatherly, he never acts on them. Walter constantly prioritizes Amanda and the kidnapping charges connect to a trip he chose to take her on. Amanda is so alone in her life that her desire to be with Walter is motivated by a lack of familial love. What makes this more complicated is that she is young and doesn’t make or keep friends easily. Walter seems to be the only one that understands her and she relishes this connection. Even after reading the book, I am unsure of this relationship, which after Walter’s decision to turn himself in, they are no longer in each other’s lives. Amanda can truly grow and become her own person. This is again a complex work of fiction that examines human connections and the complexity of family and childhood. The Best of Crimes is available for pre-order now and will release in September.