Death Wish by Brain Garfield
In the wake of a chilling attack, an ordinary man decides to take revenge.
When his wife and daughter are attacked in their home, Paul Benjamin is enjoying a three-martini lunch. A professional man, soft around the middle, Paul lives happily isolated from the rougher side of New York City. As he nurses his gin headache, a call comes from his son-in-law asking him to come to the hospital. In a few hours, his world will collapse around him.
As Paul slurped down his lunchtime gin, drug addicts broke into his cozy Upper West Side apartment. For a handful of money, they savagely beat Paul’s wife and daughter, leaving his wife dead and his daughter comatose. After his shock wears off, and Paul realizes the police department is helpless, his thoughts turn to revenge — not just for him, but for every decent family broken by the dark forces of society.
Death Wish is a novel originally published in 1972. It was adapted into a feature film in 1974, starring Charles Bronson. It is also being re-made with Bruce Willis in the starring role and directed by Eli Roth. Needless to say, there are some huge names, that have fallen in love with the plot and themes within the novel.
The novel opens with our protagonist Paul Benjamin having a working lunch with fellow professional Sam Kreutzer. Paul receives a call from his son-in-law Jack, that will change his life forever. There has been a home invasion at Paul’s property and both his wife and daughter are seriously injured. Paul must get to Roosevelt Hospital as soon as he can.
When Paul arrives at the hospital, he is filled in on vague details from Jack. His wife Esther is in surgery and they are unsure if she will make it. Local cop Joe Charles from the 20th precinct is in attendance. He shocks both Paul and jack with his brutally honest attitude about apprehending the suspects and bringing them to justice.
‘Sometimes we catch them’ – Joe Charles
Esther Benjamin doesn’t make it through the surgery. Paul is left devastated. His daughter carol, is plagued by such mental anguish and PTSD, at what she witnessed, she is left catatonic. It remains clear at this point, that she will never be the same Carol, she was prior to the attack.
Lieutenant Briggs informs Paul that from the evidence and statements he has managed to gather. The case presents as three young attackers, possibly high on drugs. They laughed throughout the entire attack. Carol passed out watching the savage beating of her mother and when awoken, managed to raise the alarm for help.
Jack tries to persuade Paul, that he must go on living. That any ideas for revenge or retribution will likely just destroy Paul himself. But Paul, can’t let go. Unable to see his daughter, due to his existence being a reminder of her dead mother. He is left isolated and alone, with nothing but his inner rage for company. Paul Benjamin decides to unleash that rage. . . .
With Paul’s desire for revenge having been unleashed, he sees potential suspects everywhere. The impact of the violent crime on his own personal life, changes his fundamental views on crime and punishment in society.
I really enjoyed the novel and the evolution of Paul’s character was intense. The themes of grief and pain creating a lust for vengeance in anger. Is a theme that could work in any given historical era. There are some attitudes in the novel around the themes of race and gun ownership, which give a feeling for the era. I was shocked to discover American gun control was tighter in the 1970s than it is today!
1970s American crime fiction, recommended! 4*