Reposting Just ‘Cuz: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

The second re-run from 5 years ago this week is from Rainbow Rowell, before she discovered she could make a lot more money on the YA market than she can with “Commercial Women’s Fiction” or whatever silly marketing label this got. I miss that Rowell, oh well.

LandlineLandline

by Rainbow Rowell

Hardcover, 310 pg.
St. Martin’s Press, 2014
Read: August 13, 2014

If the last few years have taught us readers anything, it’s that if you want quirky, honest, heart-felt romance with real (and usually moderately overweight) people and solid laughs, Rainbow Rowell will consistently deliver for you. And if you don’t think you want that, after you read her, you’ll realize that’s just what you wanted after all. She has two YA books and now two Adult books to her credit. Her latest, Landline delivers the typical Rowell magic in her story, but this time she included something else: actual magic. Sort of.

Georgie McCool is half of a pretty successful TV writing team who are thiiiiis close to being much more successful, all they have to do is crank out a handful of scripts in the next couple of weeks and they’re in a great position to sell their first series. The catch is, this involves working over Christmas — despite Georgie’s plans to go to her mother-in-law’s in Omaha with her husband, Neal and their two daughters. Georgie says that she can’t pass up this opportunity, so Neal and the girls go off without her.

Georgie sees this as a regrettable occurrence, but one of the sacrifices she has to make to get her dream show made. Her mother, step-father and sister see it as her husband leaving her, and Georgie ends up staying with them. Which gets Georgie to worrying — especially when she can never seem to reach Neal on the phone during the day. At night, however, when her iPhone battery is dead, she has to resort to the landline in her old room and she ends up talking to Neal back before they got engaged.

Don’t ask. It makes no sense. She never bothers to explain. And it doesn’t matter. Georgie eventually figures out that’s what’s going on and she rolls with it, and the reader does, too.

These conversations, as well as the absence of her family, lead Georgie on a path down memory lane, reflecting on the beginning of their relationship and how it changed as they did. Maybe Neal had made a mistake choosing her. Maybe she’d ruined her life (and his) by choosing him. Would they have both been better off going their separate ways? Or was there something worth fighting for now? Would that matter? The clock is ticking — for Georgie’s marriage (both now and then) and her career. Is she up for it?

The tension is real, the apprehension, fear, and self-doubt (for starters) that Georgie is wrestling with is very obvious and palpable. Yet while focusing on this, Rowell’s able to create a believable world filled with a lot of interesting people. There’s Georgie’s partner/best friend, Seth and another writer on their current (and hopefully future) show — and Georgie failing to hold up her end of things there, as much as she tries.

Then there’s her sister, mother and step-father. They’re much better developed (probably only because we spend more time with them). Her mother’s a pretty implausible character, yet not a cartoon, she’s a pug fanatic, married someone much younger than her, and generally seems really happy. Her sister’s about done with high school and is figuring herself out (and mostly has) — she’s a hoot, and my biggest problem with the book is that we don’t get more of Heather. Not that there wasn’t plenty of her — and it’d require the book to take a far different shape. We get whole storylines about all the non-Neal people in her life, little vignettes showing us their character, giving us smiles in the midst of Georgie’s crisis, like:

“Kids are perceptive, Georgie. They’re like dogs”–she offered a meatball from her own fork to the pug heaped in her lap–“they know when their people are unhappy.”
“I think you may have just reverse-anthropomorphized your own grandchildren.”
Her mom waved her empty fork dismissively. “You know what I mean.”
Heather leaned into Georgie and sighed. “Sometimes I feel like her daughter. And sometimes I feel like the dog with the least ribbons.”

Not only do the supporting stories, or even the little moments like this fill out Georgie’s world and make it more interesting, they provide a breather for the reader from having to deal with the disintegrating marriage.

I know some people think we spend too much time in flashbacks, where Georgie’s remembering how she and Neal met, got to know each other, and started seeing each other, etc. But we need that. If all we get is Neal in the present, or past-Neal on the phone, we’re not going to care enough. Especially in the first couple of scenes we get with Neal, it’d be real easy to see him as unsympathetic — the guy holding Georgie and her career back. We need these flashbacks so the reader can sync their feelings about Neal with Georgie’s, so that when we read something like:

Georgie hadn’t known back then how much she was going to come to need Neal, how he was going to become like air to her.
Was that codependence? Or was it just marriage?”

or

She needed him.
Neal was home. Neal was base.
Neal was where Georgie plugged in, and synced up, and started fresh every day. He was the only one who knew her exactly as she was.

find ourselves agreeing with her, or at least seeing why she says it.

At the end of the book, there’s a lot of plot lines dangling — some very important ones, actually. Enough so, that normally, I’d devote a paragraph to complaining about it. But I won’t this time — it works for Landline. There’s a lot for Georgie to work out herself, she’s really only settled on the one most important thing, leaving the rest to be resolved another day. And that’s got to be good enough for the reader.

Not her best, but Rowell on an off day is still really, really good.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

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Heart of Barkness by Spencer Quinn: Chet & Bernie are Back in Action as they Work to Clear a Country Music Legend

Heart of BarknessHeart of Barkness

by Spencer Quinn
Series: Chet and Bernie, #8
Hardcover, 299 pg.
Forge Books, 2019

Read: July 9 – 10, 2019

It’s been 4 years—4 long years (28 dog years!) since the publication of Scents and Sensibility, so it’s understandable (but personally troubling) that I’d forgotten it ended on something of a cliffhanger. It came back to me rather quickly as Quinn resolved it in the opening pages, but I’d still encourage those whose memory might be equally sketchy to re-read at least the last chapter of Scents before starting this.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Chet’s a very large mixed-breed dog, who flunked out of Police Dog Training at the very end of the course. Since then, he was adopted by Bernie Little, a Private Investigator. The two make a fantastic team, and Chet narrates the novels recounting some of their adventures. Chet’s a fantastic character and a very good dog. He’s got a short attention span and will frequently lose track of what he was talking about, he is utterly devoted to Bernie and is convinced that everything his partner does is the greatest. Bernie seems to be a pretty good PI, thankfully (but you have to read between the hagiographic lines from Chet).

The core of this novel revolves around an elderly legendary country singer, Lotty Pilgrim (I see her as latter-day Loretta Lynn-type). She’s fallen on hard times (a tried and true mix of being too trusting and bad business management) and is playing in a dive bar in Phoenix when she meets Bernie and Chet. Bernie foils an attempt to steal her tip jar, and then when he attempts to follow up on that attempt, he learns somethings that disturb him. Soon after this, Lotty’s current business manager is killed and Lotty is the chief/only suspect — and is even on the verge of confessing to it.

Bernie doesn’t believe it for a second—neither does Chet, I should add—and can’t stomach the idea of her confessing like that. So he launches an investigation of his own—despite very insistent suggestions from local Law Enforcement to mind his own business. Bernie’s investigation involves a lot of digging into the past as well as the expected digging into the present. The more he digs, the more questions it seems to raise Chet would interject here to say that’s Bernie’s plan.

Throughout the series, Chet will compare what they’re doing with to something they did in a past case—usually not one that’s recorded in a novel. We learn a lot about Bernie through these quick flashbacks. Chet seems to reveal a lot more this time then he has in the past, and I’m glad we don’t get the full story about at least one of those cases—it sounds pretty grim.

The one thing I want to mention that separates this from the rest of the series is pretty tricky without giving anything away. But there’s something that happens in every book—a well that Quinn returns to too often for my taste. And it’s absent in this book. I loved that. Variety is good for the fans.

I don’t want to take the time to talk about all the new characters—but as the plot centers around Lotty Pilgrim, I want to talk about her for a moment. She’s not technically Bernie’s client, but his efforts are focused on keeping her out of trouble—especially if she doesn’t deserve it. She’s an intriguing character—an object of admiration and pity at the same time; she’s still actively writing and performing, while relegated to a trivia quiz answer in the culture; she’s fiercely independent and feisty, but she’s also clearly the victim of her past, several people in the music industry, and (as I said before) a trusting nature. She’s ridden with guilt, and a lot of her problems may be self-inflicted in a twisted form of penance. All said, I liked her as a person. I wouldn’t think that there’s more for Quinn to do or explore with her, I’d be happy to be proven wrong

Of course, the book’s not all business for the Little Detective Agency. Bernie’s been divorced for a while and sees his son (Chet’s second-favorite human) regularly, and started seeing Suzie in the first novel. There are big developments on the Suzie front here—but that seems kind of par for the course over the last two or three novels, and while I’m not crazy about them, I don’t know that I’m opposed to it. I think the next book (thankfully, I’ve seen Quinn state it’s finished) will tell me a lot about that

Is this a decent jumping-on point? Yeah, it’d work—almost the entire series works as one (I’m not sure Paw and Order or The Sound and the Furry would be). But obviously, you’d pick up on nuances, background, and so on if you start at the beginning. It was so good to spend time with these two again, and the book itself is one of the best in the series—both in terms of plot and character moments for the protagonists. It’s funny, heartfelt, clever, suspenseful, and satisfying. And it features a dog. Really can’t ask for more.

At one point, Lotty writes a song about Chet, cleverly entitled “Song for Chet.” It was recorded and a video made with clips provided by Quinn’s fans. I just can’t leave this post without sharing it:

—–

4 Stars

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Pub Day Repost: Bark of Night by David Rosenfelt: Another winner of a case for the lawyer who’s gone to the dogs

Bark of NightBark of Night

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #19

eARC, 304 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2019
Read: July 3 – 4, 2019

I know it’s practically de rigueur for me to start off talking about how difficult it is to talk about yet another Andy Carpenter book, but I’m going to try to resist this time (no promises that I won’t resort to it next time).

Instead, I want to focus on people who read this blog and haven’t picked up a book in this series — let’s see if I can help you come to the light. Andy Carpenter is a defense attorney — thanks to some high profile cases, some lucrative lawsuits, (and some other things), he’s an independently wealthy defense attorney (see the first couple of books for details). He’s also lazy. These two traits generate a lawyer/protagonist who doesn’t want to take on clients who doesn’t want to go to work (he’s the anti-Lincoln Lawyer). He’d rather watch sports, hang out with his wife, kid, friends and dog (especially the latter) and maybe check-in on the dog rescue he runs with a former client. He only takes on a case when he likes the potential client, he feels an injustice is being done, his wife talks him into it — or the life of a dog lies in the balance (there’s a strong link between the first reason I listed and the last). This time out, it’s pretty much a combination of those motivations. Nevertheless, when he takes on a client, he pulls out all the stops for him or her. Much like with Perry Mason, you have to wonder why prosecutor’s don’t just drop charges when Andy shows up in court — you can bet his client will be exonerated.

Andy’s vet calls him to his office to talk about something — namely, this dog that had been brought in to be euthanized. Before he did that, someone in his office scanned the microchip in the dog. The man who paid for the euthanization, wasn’t the owner f the dog — because he’d been murdered shortly before the dog appeared. After some digging, Andy discovers that the man who brought the dog in is very likely connected to the murder (especially when they look at his rap sheet). No one’s sure why he wanted a vet to take care of destroying the dog rather than doing it himself. But someone completely different has been charged with the crime, and Andy knows that this man is innocent — he has to be, there’s no other explanation how the would-be dog killer got involved.

From there, Andy and his team (his PI wife, her PI friend/Andy’s bodyguard, Andy’s CPA/hacker, his associate attorney) set out to defend their client, figure out why anyone would want to kill the victim (a documentary filmmaker, and not a particularly successful — or good — one), and maybe answer a few questions about the victim’s dog. Like most Carpenter novels, the mystery is just twisty enough to keep you guessing to the end. Andy’s courtroom antics are pretty subdued this time, but watching him in action is fun — particularly as he battles the Assistant D.A.

Andy’s team — and his friends who aren’t on the team — are as enjoyable to spend time with as ever. With some long-running series you stick with it because the characters are so near and dear to you. With some, you put up with characters because the author puts out great mysteries/adventures/whatever. It’s with the best series that you get both — a good mystery (in this case) and a cast of characters you look forward to seeing again. That’s definitely what we have in the Andy Carpenter books, and Bark of Night is a prime example of it.

As a capper, if the last few paragraphs don’t provoke a warm fuzzy or three in you, there’s something wrong with you and you should probably seek professional help. Rosenfelt is good at the heart-warming stuff, and he’s at the top of his game here.

Newcomers will get enough information along the way to hop on board here — there’s no need to feel like you need to go back to Book One (Open and Shut) and read them in order to catch all the nuance. Start here, and you’ll easily see why this book has charmed and entertained audiences enough to last for 19 books (and counting!). It’s a clever mystery, featuring characters that are reliably comfortable and funny — with just enough moments of seriousness and displays of skill that you can believe they’ll be defending someone and bringing a killer to justice at the same time. This is one of the better installments in the last few years (both for being enjoyable and for the mystery) and should move right to the top of your TBR (note that a “lesser” Andy Carpenter book is still fun, engaging and entertaining).

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this opportunity.

—–

4 Stars

Bark of Night by David Rosenfelt: Another winner of a case for the lawyer who’s gone to the dogs

Bark of NightBark of Night

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #19

eARC, 304 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2019
Read: July 3 – 4, 2019

I know it’s practically de rigueur for me to start off talking about how difficult it is to talk about yet another Andy Carpenter book, but I’m going to try to resist this time (no promises that I won’t resort to it next time).

Instead, I want to focus on people who read this blog and haven’t picked up a book in this series — let’s see if I can help you come to the light. Andy Carpenter is a defense attorney — thanks to some high profile cases, some lucrative lawsuits, (and some other things), he’s an independently wealthy defense attorney (see the first couple of books for details). He’s also lazy. These two traits generate a lawyer/protagonist who doesn’t want to take on clients who doesn’t want to go to work (he’s the anti-Lincoln Lawyer). He’d rather watch sports, hang out with his wife, kid, friends and dog (especially the latter) and maybe check-in on the dog rescue he runs with a former client. He only takes on a case when he likes the potential client, he feels an injustice is being done, his wife talks him into it — or the life of a dog lies in the balance (there’s a strong link between the first reason I listed and the last). This time out, it’s pretty much a combination of those motivations. Nevertheless, when he takes on a client, he pulls out all the stops for him or her. Much like with Perry Mason, you have to wonder why prosecutor’s don’t just drop charges when Andy shows up in court — you can bet his client will be exonerated.

Andy’s vet calls him to his office to talk about something — namely, this dog that had been brought in to be euthanized. Before he did that, someone in his office scanned the microchip in the dog. The man who paid for the euthanization, wasn’t the owner f the dog — because he’d been murdered shortly before the dog appeared. After some digging, Andy discovers that the man who brought the dog in is very likely connected to the murder (especially when they look at his rap sheet). No one’s sure why he wanted a vet to take care of destroying the dog rather than doing it himself. But someone completely different has been charged with the crime, and Andy knows that this man is innocent — he has to be, there’s no other explanation how the would-be dog killer got involved.

From there, Andy and his team (his PI wife, her PI friend/Andy’s bodyguard, Andy’s CPA/hacker, his associate attorney) set out to defend their client, figure out why anyone would want to kill the victim (a documentary filmmaker, and not a particularly successful — or good — one), and maybe answer a few questions about the victim’s dog. Like most Carpenter novels, the mystery is just twisty enough to keep you guessing to the end. Andy’s courtroom antics are pretty subdued this time, but watching him in action is fun — particularly as he battles the Assistant D.A.

Andy’s team — and his friends who aren’t on the team — are as enjoyable to spend time with as ever. With some long-running series you stick with it because the characters are so near and dear to you. With some, you put up with characters because the author puts out great mysteries/adventures/whatever. It’s with the best series that you get both — a good mystery (in this case) and a cast of characters you look forward to seeing again. That’s definitely what we have in the Andy Carpenter books, and Bark of Night is a prime example of it.

As a capper, if the last few paragraphs don’t provoke a warm fuzzy or three in you, there’s something wrong with you and you should probably seek professional help. Rosenfelt is good at the heart-warming stuff, and he’s at the top of his game here.

Newcomers will get enough information along the way to hop on board here — there’s no need to feel like you need to go back to Book One (Open and Shut) and read them in order to catch all the nuance. Start here, and you’ll easily see why this book has charmed and entertained audiences enough to last for 19 books (and counting!). It’s a clever mystery, featuring characters that are reliably comfortable and funny — with just enough moments of seriousness and displays of skill that you can believe they’ll be defending someone and bringing a killer to justice at the same time. This is one of the better installments in the last few years (both for being enjoyable and for the mystery) and should move right to the top of your TBR (note that a “lesser” Andy Carpenter book is still fun, engaging and entertaining).

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this opportunity.

—–

4 Stars

Bullet Points about Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin: Another winner from one of the best in the biz

Even Dogs in the WildEven Dogs in the Wild

by Ian Rankin
Series: John Rebus, #20

Hardcover, 347 pg.
Little, Brown and Company, 2016

Read: June 10 – 12, 2019

This post is overdue, and I can’t seem to find time to do it right. So, I won’t. Here’s a quick and dirty way to get it taken care of. I wish I had it in me to do a better job, but I don’t. Here’s the blurb taken from Rankin’s site:

           Retirement doesn’t suit John Rebus. He wasn’t made for hobbies, holidays or home improvements. Being a cop is in his blood.

So when DI Siobhan Clarke asks for his help on a case, Rebus doesn’t need long to consider his options.

Clarke’s been investigating the death of a senior lawyer whose body was found along with a threatening note. On the other side of Edinburgh, Big Ger Cafferty – Rebus’s long-time nemesis – has received an identical note and a bullet through his window.

Now it’s up to Clarke and Rebus to connect the dots and stop a killer.

Meanwhile, DI Malcolm Fox joins forces with a covert team from Glasgow who are tailing a notorious crime family. There’s something they want, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it.

It’s a game of dog eat dog – in the city, as in the wild.

Even Dogs in the Wild brings back Ian Rankin’s greatest characters in a story exploring the darkest corners of our instincts and desires.

If I had the time to do this properly, here are the things I’d be talking about.

  • Rebus as consultant/PI — this is really the perfect role for him, he’s not that great at procedure anyway. Calling his own shots, following his instincts, going about things, he’s a better fit for this kind of thing than a certain retired LAPD Detective.
  • This proves to be the kind of case made for Rebus — the solution lays in the past, but the ramifications are in the present.
  • Cafferty isn’t the suspect here (he’s not innocent, he never is), but he’s the victim — and maybe a concerned citizen?
  • There’s little in Crime Fiction better than Rebus and Cafferty on the same page — that’s as true here as ever.
  • Clarke’s role seemed diminished in favor of Fox and Rebus (particularly the former), but maybe that’s just me — what she does, however, allows Rebus to do what he does best
  • The Clarke/Fox friendship is an interesting one — and different from the Clarke/Rebus friendship. I’ll enjoy watching this develop.
  • I’m already really enjoying the Fox/Rebus friendship/mentorship. That’s not something anyone would’ve seen coming the first time we met Fox, or the first time we saw the two of them cross paths. The fact that they’ve got a strange friendship/mentorship going on is just wonderful.
  • There’s more going on in Fox’s personal life than we’ve really ever seen with Rebus or Clarke on an extended basis.
  • Fox’s share of the story is really strong and displays the character we’ve come to know over the past few novels, but evolving to take on some of Rebus’ better traits, but none of his . . . well, worse.
  • For a period of time, through no fault of his own, Rebus takes guardianship over a small dog. This was just fantastic and one of my favorite things to happen to him in years.

Combine all of the above with Rankin’s consummate skill and you’ve got another winner — the twentieth Rebus book and the character, the writing, and the perspective is a strong and fresh as it ever was. A sure-fire win for old fans that would probably convert a newbie, too.

—–

4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge 2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Paper Son by S.J. Rozan: Lydia and Bill in their most foreign setting yet — Mississippi

Paper SonPaper Son

by S. J. Rozan
Series: Lydia Chin & Bill Smith, #12eARC, 352 pg.
Pegasus Books, 2019

Read: June 12 – 17, 2019

One thing I’ve said (possibly too often) as I talk about this series is how much I enjoy the conversations between Lydia and Bill — but I think one of the conversations between Lydia and her mother tops anything the partners have to say (until the last conversation, anyway), and the rest weren’t far behind. We start off with Mrs. Chin telling Lydia that she has to go to Mississippi — and take Bill along — to investigate a murder. Long-time readers of this series will be forgiven the need to re-read that sentence, I assure you that it’s correct. One of Lydia’s cousins (yes, she has cousins in the Mississippi Delta — she’s as shocked as you are) is accused of murdering his father. Her mother wants Lydia to go down and prove his innocence. That he’s innocent isn’t ever in doubt for a moment — he’s related to Lydia’s father, ergo, he’s innocent. Lydia doesn’t accept her mother’s logic, but feels obligated to try to help this cousin she’s never heard of before now, so she and Bill set off for the Delta. It’s simply a dynamite first chapter, and the hook was set immediately.

Upon their arrival, Lydia and Bill find themselves neck deep in a tangled web of history, race, meth, gambling (both your more traditional varieties and purely 21st Century versions), politics and a even more race (it is Mississippi). Lydia’s cousin Jefferson is in his mid-20’s, a computer whiz of some sort with questionable ethics. He’s called to come to his father’s grocery store for some reason — they argue, and Jefferson leaves to cool off. When he returns, he finds his father bleeding out from a knife wound. Naturally, that’s when the police arrive, taking him into custody immediately. He’s bloody, standing over the victim and weapon — and sure, his fingerprints are all over the knife. Seems like an open and shut case, right?

Jefferson’s uncle, Captain Pete, is at the front of the line of those who doubt this — which is why he called his cousin’s widow to get her PI daughter down to help. Pete’s a professional gambler — precisely the kind of person Mrs. Chin wouldn’t like to acknowledge, but is friendly, hospitable and charming. Lydia and Bill warm to him quickly and he becomes a source of comfort as well as a source of information for the duo as they dive in to the investigation. Soon after arriving in Mississippi, they also meet another of Lydia’s cousins — a nephew to Pete, who is running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Lydia can’t believe she’s related to a candidate for governor and she’s never heard of him. What else has her mother been keeping from her? Just from her conversations with Pete and Raymond Tam (the candidate), Lydia’s overwhelmed with family history that she didn’t expect to exist, much less be able to understand it all. It doesn’t derail the work that she and Bill are doing at all, but it threatens to distract her more than once. Adding the candidate into the mix guarantees that the water will get a lot muddier before it starts to become clear.

Lydia’s voice is as strong, engaging and entertaining as ever — possibly better than ever. I want to compare it to vintage Spenser, but that seems wrong (I’m not sure why I want to compare it to Parker at his best or why I shouldn’t — but that’s where I am). She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s insightful, she’s in a very alien place and is doing her best to acclimate. Bill seemed under utilized a little bit this time around — but (as he himself would point out), this was Lydia’s family, her case — he was just around for support. And he did come to her aid at pivotal moments — laying his native Southern accent on a little thick to help pave the way with some of the locals and to diffuse tense situations. Captain Pete is a great character, and I wish he wasn’t designed to be a one-and-done kind of guy, but I can’t see him coming up to Chinatown anytime soon to have tea with Mrs. Chin. Actually, I could easily read another novel or two with this cast — from the Public Defender staff to the people that hang out at the grocery store and all points in between. I’m not sure how Rozan could orchestrate those novels without feeling a bit contrived, but I’d be in for them.(*)

(*) Sure, I’d be in for Lydia and Bill Go Grocery Shopping or Bill and Lydia’s Day at the Recycling Center, but that’s beside the point..

I enjoy tea, but I’m no expert on it — I’m no where near the tea aficionado that Lydia is (even keeping Bill’s cupboards better stocked than he understands), but I loved her reaction to Sweet Tea (not just because I think she’s right). Using food is a great shortcut to revealing character traits, and Rozan does a great job throughout this book, but particularly on this point, of using that peculiar Southern version of tea to show us sides of Lydia.

Rozan’s at her strongest when in addition to the mystery, she’s using the circumstances around it to have Lydia and/or Bill explore another culture/sub-culture. She’s displayed this strength when helping her readers understand the Jewish refugees in the 1930’s who fled to Shanghai (The Shanghai Moon), Hong Kong (in Reflecting the Sky), Small Town High School Football (Winter and Night), the Contemporary Chinese Art scene (Ghost Hero), and so on. Here we get a Yankee perspective on Mississippi black/white relations (and a glance or two at how it differs from neighboring states), as well as a fascinating look at the Chinese in the Mississippi Delta in the late Nineteenth Century (which left me almost as shocked as Lydia). You give us that kind of history and commentary while delivering a solid mystery? It’s hard to ask for more.

As interesting as that is, the heart of the novel is in the idea of family. It’s a strong theme throughout the series, actually — whether it be Lydia’s strong sense of family, or the found family in the partnership of Bill and Lydia — or the many damaged families they encounter in their work. In Paper Son family shapes the warp and woof of the narrative — it’s Mrs. Chin’s confidence in the innocence of her husband’s relations, and Captain Pete’s call for help that brings the duo to the Delta. Lydia fights the impulse to believe Jefferson and Pete (and others) just because they’re family, yet wants thing to be the way her mother believes they are (even when — particularly when — the facts don’t seem to support it). Bill even encounters a fellow Smith, and while no one believes for a second they share anything beyond the name in common, there’s a connection. At it’s core, Paper Son is a story about the sacrifice, support, trust, and dysfunction that comes along from strong family (blood relation or found family) — not to mention all of the unintended consequences of that sacrifice, support, trust and dysfunction. I’m tempted to keep going, but I’d end up revealing too much.

The mystery itself is up to Rozan’s high standards — you may guess the identity of the killer fairly early on (and you may not), but you will not see the motivation coming until it’s past the point of inevitability. The ending feels a little rushed, but I can’t think of a way to improve upon it — and any rush was actually probably just me trying to discover how things would play out. The first half of the denouement with Lydia’s family is heartwarming — and, sure, borderline cheesy, but Rozan earned it. The second half is less cheesy and will fill even jaded readers with hope and joy. It’s just a great way to close the book.

If Paper Son isn’t S. J. Rozan and the series at their best, it’s hard to tell. For book 12 in a series to be this good almost defies the odds, the years that separated this book from it’s predecessor didn’t slow her down a bit (I honestly was afraid we’d be looking at something like Lehane’s return to Kenzie and Genarro in Moonlight Mile after 11 years). Long-time fans will be delighted in the return of this pair. I don’t know that this is the best introduction to the series, but it’d work just fine — you learn everything you need to know here. Fans of PI fiction starring smart, capable (and yes, mouthy) women will find a lot to reward them in these pages.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from W. W. Norton & Company via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

The Definitive (for now) Irresponsible Reader’s take on Charlie and Rose Investigate/Jo Perry

I was a little bummed, I have to admit, when Damppebbles Blog Tours approached me about doing this tour — I’d already said my piece about Dead is Beautiful, so what can I do to help spread the word about this wonderful series. The only thing I can do at this point is make it easier for you to find out more about the boks, so you can order them yourselves. So here’s everything (to date) that I’ve had to say about the series in one handy spot. Hopefully this helps.

(for those that I’ve posted about more than once, I went with the more recent posting, just because I’ve edited and commented on them).

I know you aren’t supposed to use modifiers with words like unique, but I have it break the laws of language with this series: they simply are the most unique books in Crime Fiction. You will not read anything like them – every other Crime Fiction novel I’ve read in the past 6 years (and that’s a lot) can be compared to at least 6 others without breaking a sweat or resorting to my reading logs to aid my memory. The only things I can compare the Charlie and Rose books to are other Charlie and Rose books.

These are special novels, but don’t take my word for it — go learn for yourself.

Dead is BetterDead is Better

My complete take
“This is a fast and lean read — Perry doesn’t waste a word. . . You’ll grow to like Charles, you’ll want to adopt Rose, and you’ll want to finds out what happens to them next.”

4 Stars

Dead is BestDead is Best

My complete take
“Funny, poignant, all-around good story-telling. Plus there’s a dog. You really can’t ask for more than that.”

4 Stars

Dead is GoodDead is Good

My complete take
“For a good mystery with oddly compelling characters, once again, look no further than Jo Perry.”

4 Stars

Dead is BeautifulDead is Beautiful

My complete take
“…this is one of those series that improves as it goes on. These unique protagonists get us to look at life and events in a different kind of way, while reading very different kind of mysteries. I hope I get to keep spending time with them for a long time to come — and I strongly encourage you to join in the fun.”

4 Stars

A Few Quick Questions With…Jo Perry

My Q&A with Jo Perry from February.
“…despite all that I am very late bloomer when it comes to fiction. My first novel, Dead Is Better was published in 2015.

As for a ‘career in fiction,’ I’m not there yet”

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.