By Rae Francoeur
Cape Ann Beacon
Posted Nov 10, 2010 @ 12:04 PM

“Lead Poisoning” By J.E. Seymour. Mainly Murder Press, Wethersfield CT, 2010. 293 pages. $15.95.

Readers should pay attention to the title of J.E. Seymour’s crime novel. “Lead Poisoning” isn’t easily curable, no matter how hard you try.

Seymour lives in southern New Hampshire and this is her first published novel.

We meet fugitive Kevin Markinson after his third escape from prison. His expertise as a sniper during the Vietnam War makes him a natural for a job with a crime family in New York. His killing instinct is well honed when we meet him at the age of 46. He’s reliable, responsible and valuable to his employers; but, when he inadvertently makes one of the small-time mobsters in the family look bad, he’s forced into hiding. He heads to a small New Hampshire town to reunite with his hostile wife and two ambivalent adolescent sons.

“Lead Poisoning” is an unusual crime novel. It’s about what happens after a life of crime, when the killer has aged, when he’s hobbled by multiple old gunshot wounds, when he’s deeply entrenched in habits that accommodate a raging case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Most significantly, this damaged loner has to insinuate himself back into family and social life — tasks for which he has no skills.

Seymour gives us a tough, uncompromising look at the struggles inherent in this late-in-life attempt at acculturation. Kevin finds taking on a family and a social life requires more patience and more fortitude than any gunplay he’s ever experienced.

Notable in the story is Kevin’s struggle with PTSD, which to some extent commands most of his psychology. Sometimes he can rise above the knee-jerk reactions and spare his family great distress. Other times he cannot. It’s natural for him to pull out a gun and shoot to solve a problem. That his kids witness this level of violence seems less of a problem to him than having them witness his humiliation at the hands of police.

Kevin is a powerful mix of good and evil, which explains his wife’s enduring loyalty and her agreement to his residence. Slowly the requirements of family life begin to penetrate and Kevin risks all to rise to the occasion. While splitting wood one morning, he realizes: “He was determined to make this work…to fit in here.” So, despite the fact that he’s a wanted, hunted fugitive, he coaches the basketball team and sits on the school board in his small New England town. Though a bit provincial it’s still linked to the world by an accessible Internet.

You could think of Kevin as feral. He’s also prone to lousy luck. Not all of the crimes for which he’s been imprisoned are his but he takes the rap and pays dearly again and again.

His wife’s intent is not to tame but to find some sort of balance in this crazy situation. She doesn’t hold back when it comes to asserting her requirements — don’t smoke in the house, lock the guns up, don’t touch till the time feels right. Kevin’s journey, while not anything most of us can relate to, is very interesting. The book is a character study, not just of Kevin, but also of his wife and two sons, and each person’s hard struggle to move closer to something like family.

Seymour has written several other novels with Kevin as a pivotal character. One hopes others will be made available once readers read “Lead Poisoning” and want to know more.

Rae Francoeur can be reached at rae.francoeur@verizon.net. Read her blog at http://www.freefallrae.blogspot.com/ or her book, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” available online or in bookstores.