* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Set at the end of the World War I, Certainty is based on real life events that took place in Newport, Rhode Island when twenty-five thousand navy officers living in cramped conditions and with nothing to do start causing mischief in town. One of the commanding officers recruits men for a secret mission to lure and gather evidence against other officers who have been identified as homosexuals. When the group accuses the local clergyman, Samuel Kent, of making sexual advances against young officers, William Bartlett, a local attorney with deep roots in the community agrees to defend Kent even though he has no trial experience. Although he thinks homosexuality is an abomination, Bartlett is wholeheartedly convinced that Kent is a good man and it is this unwavering belief that compels him to put his reputation and career at stake to clear Kent’s name.
The themes of justice and equality, and determining what is morally right and wrong are nothing new, but still resonate so strongly when you think of how we are still struggling with these issues today. The characters in Certainty seemed stereotypical to me — the inexperienced but driven lawyer, the saintly priest, the bad boy gone good — yet are the saving grace in this fairly predictable story. Sometimes you just need clear-cut heroes to root for.
Victor Bevine has explained that Certainty began as a script before he transformed it into a novel and the story very much reads like a made for television movie. However, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing if the story is absorbing.
Certainty not only looks at discrimination against gay men during this time period, but also touches on the dramatic changes taking place in the United States following the end of the war, such as the advent of Prohibition and the women’s suffrage movement which I found very interesting. Ultimately, I’ve always enjoyed the suspense of a good courtroom drama and Certainty provides plenty of gasps and thrills. The outcome may have been a little predictable, but it was still a satisfying read.
Certainty by Victor Bevine is currently on tour with TLC Book Tours and I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.