Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday's Quotes

Last week I recommended Thomas H. Cook's The City When It Rains (1991) and Red Leaves (2005), but it appears that I didn't tell enough about them for some.  The mystery in the former involves a young woman who has fallen or jumped off a high building in a white dress, apparently after throwing her doll off first.  The protagonist is a free-lance photographer.  He tries to sort out the real story of the fall, doing his best to make ends meet while raising his nine-year-old daughter:

"On Saturday morning Corman spent several hours arguing intermittently with Lucy over what movie they'd see that afternoon.  Lucy sat cross-legged on the floor, carefully going over the entertainment section of the Times.  She preferred movies that edged cautiously into the forbidden zone of sex and violence, but Corman suspected that this had less to do with the actual film than with her need to feel grown-up.  It was the sort of attitude that could become a way of living, so that in the end you grew to adolescence hating childhood, then to adulthood hating adolescence, went all the way to death, hating life."

It is a smart, unconventional, philosophical novel, in which the hunt for and the surprising answer to the mystery affects the protagonist in ways that neither he nor the readers watching him can forsee.  Different characters in the novel espouse their own different philosophies, but readers are allowed to make up their own minds about these things.

The novel is rich in atmosphere with a feeling for New York City's hidden history, gritty in places while either rainy or overcast from start to finish.  The ending of the mystery turns compassionate rather than noir, and the last page finds the photographer determinedly philosophical, tentatively upbeat without being maudlin.

Don't miss The City When It Rains.  I hope I didn't give too much away now.

As for Red Leaves, it is a missing child novel which plays well into the modern fears for children around Halloween, given the slasher mentality of our movies, the urban legends of razor blades in apples, and the real life abductions featured in the news almost every day.  I'll leave it to the blurbs on the first-edition dustjacket for providing additional info:

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