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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
The Judgment Game by Eli Pope tells the harrowing story of the Cader family. They say that time heals all wounds, but how can that be if deep, old wounds fester? Such is the case of Billy Jay Cader. The death of his father is something that will make him exist rather than live. It is a dark past that he doesn’t want anyone to know, and it has made him develop paranoia where he thinks that everyone knows his secret by merely looking at him. As he grows up, the memory of the mason jar continues to haunt him—the tool that his father used to creatively exercise corporal punishment on him and his brother, Darrell Lee. His past is catching up with him in a vicious cycle that will strengthen the demons plaguing him. Indeed, time doesn’t heal all wounds for everyone.
The Judgment Game is one of the best books of the year, a taut psychological thriller that becomes something more than that. It is a study of the impact of childhood trauma and how it can warp an individual’s well-being. This idea grows more extensive and more encompassing as Billy Jay tries to function normally in society. Eli Pope paints with bold written strokes so that the novel rises above your typical thriller novel that offers cheap excitement. Jay Cader, the family patriarch, is one of the plot's great tormented and bitter characters, fishing for the reader’s contempt, and you are apt to take the bait. Although this is pure fiction, it plays like real events as Pope grounds his characters and dialogue in realism. This is a great thriller, and if you are planning to skip the genre, make this book an exception.