Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Miscellaneous: Assorted Recommendations

Buy this album. This one right here, Made Possible by The Bad Plus. Listen to it regularly. It’s one brilliant song after another. Then see them live at your earliest opportunity. You can thank me later.

Here’s a plot: hard-working family man Wade Benson falls asleep at the wheel one night and accidentally kills a young woman. He’s sentenced to several years’ probation, but must serve two days of each of those years in jail. A friend of the victim’s family feels Wade hasn’t suffered enough for his crime and picks one of those days to kidnap Wade’s college-age daughter.

Odds are you’re picturing a white-knuckle ride about a decent individual desperate to atone for a horrible mistake, pitted against a hardened criminal. Perfect airplane reading. That’s not Lake Country. Sean Doolittle, a cagey writer who sidles up on his narratives, has something more interesting in mind. After a brief introduction putative villain Darryl Potter, back from Iraq and battling a host of post-war demons, disappears until the halfway point. We never even meet Wade Benson, an authorial decision that practically renders the book experimental. Instead Doolittle adopts an outside-in approach, letting characters on the periphery work their way to the center of the drama. A TV reporter having second thoughts about her career. A bounty hunter who has mastered his own form of destructive Zen. And Darryl’s only friend Mike, a fellow veteran who “came home from the Marine Corps with a plastic knee, 63 percent hearing loss in his left ear, and a bunch of grisly sludge where his nighttime dreams used to be.” The result is a portrait of a Minnesota community and a subtle, moving thriller about the unexpected repercussions of tragedy.

Leo Waterman is back after a too-lengthy hiatus in G. M. Ford’s Thicker Than Water. The irascible shamus has finally cashed in the trust fund his deeply crooked politico old man left him. He’s still got the boys – the motley assortment of indigent misfits who work as his “operatives” – to spend his newfound gain on, but he’s lost Rebecca, the woman he loves, to another man. When Rebecca vanishes without a trace, Leo slips out of semi-retirement and back onto the mean streets of the Pacific Northwest. Thicker Than Water is a solid old-school detective novel shot through with Leo’s trademark grumpy humor and rich Seattle atmosphere. I may be biased because Rosemarie’s workplace and several watering holes I frequent are name-checked, but nobody captures the spirit of my adopted hometown like Ford.