One of the fun things about having Kindle Unlimited is that I can test a new author without too much commitment. And on days when I’m feeling under the weather, a disposable book I don’t have to think about is handy, and convenient if I’m not at home with my library. So I wound up reading one and a half books on the go…
I’ve been reading mysteries for a long time. I’m not sure when I started, but I know that Dick Francis was one of my first favorites (which is neither here nor there to this review). I like police procedurals, and as I’m taking criminal justice classes in college now, it adds a certain something to reading them. But for me, as it is with any genre, character comes first. I need to connect with the main character, or I just can’t stick with it. I read Pat Cornwell for far longer than I wanted to, because although I grew to loathe the main characters, her forensics were interesting. But that series jumped the shark and I will never pick another one up. I’m touching on this because Mike Markel’s Big Sick Heart reminded me of it. The story starts out with promise. I don’t recall the mystery, a couple of weeks after I began reading (and finished), but I recall the characters. The big gentleman partner, the petite female cop with issues. I was about halfway through the book when the author broke the main character for me, in a way I could not forgive. I think I’ve talked on the blog about my Dad? He was in emergency medicine for my entire childhood into my late teen years before a medical retirement. Dad was never a drinker (You can see where I’m going, I’m sure) but even when he did indulge in one, he never drove. Hard and fast family/house rule: even one drink, you don’t get behind the wheel. Now, I’m aware that one drink is not enough to cloud the judgement of a grown person with decent body mass. But Dad has scraped enough idiots off the pavement to never put himself in that position, and I modeled my behaviour after his. I know there are bad cops, careless cops, but I also know there are far more who are people, with enough intelligence to not get behind the wheel blind sodding drunk and then t-bone a mini van full of kids. Which is what this character does.
I put the book down. Reluctantly, a day or two later, hoping that since the story up to this point had been quality, I picked it up again. The cop who has just possibly killed a child in a drunk-driving accident talks the rookie first responder into letting her leave the scene, since she’s the only one who can possibly solve this murder… I put the book down again, and I won’t pick up any others by this author. There are some things that are unforgivable, and I just found one of them for me.
So when I picked up Patrick McManus’s Circles in the Snow, I was a little gun-shy. I’ve read so many cop books, it seems, where the main character is full of angst, bitterness, and sheer idiocy, as in the book above. It’s like we’re not allowed to read about decent, steady men and women who do their jobs competently. Not that I don’t allow a character a mistake, or emotion. But I want to occasionally read about good folks. McManus delivers. Even though this is book 6 in the series, I didn’t have any trouble slipping into the setting, although it helps that I think I know that town… I certainly knew some of the folks he writes about, despite never having lived in Idaho, myself. Bo Tully, the sherrif and main character, isn’t really sure he wants to be a cop any more, but he doesn’t hang his hat on that and mourn. He gets the job done, and the constellation of characters around him shine brightly as well. This book was a treat, and although McManus, who is known for his humor, slips some sly funny stuff in, this isn’t a silly book.
Finally, the king of sly word play, Terry Pratchett. I picked up a few of his on sale the other day. One of them was Jingo. I think I’d read it a few years back, because I kept having deja vu moments. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. Sam Vimes, Copper to the bone, is thrust into war in this story. How can a mere policeman halt a war? With the aid of the cool Vetinari, the peculiar Nobby Nobbs, the hairy but smart Angua, and the charismatic Carrot, it can be done. All my favorites, and Pratchett in fine form. Just the thing for reading with uncontrollable snorts of laughter at random.
Lord Vetinari in a meeting: “what people said was what they wanted him to hear. He paid a lot of attention to the spaces outside the words, though. That’s where the things were that they hoped he didn’t know and didn’t want him to find out.”
“It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. It is was them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. It is was Us, what did that make Me?”
“Odd thing, ain’t it… you meet people one at a time, they seem decent, they got brains that work, and then they get together and you hear the voice of the people. And it snarls!”
“The man had a point. The man had a whole sword.”