Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 11:45 a.m.
When I started reading Jada Ryker’s Take the Body and Run, I thought it was a mess. I couldn’t keep up with all the characters. This was also the way I felt when I started reading Doctor Zhivago several decades ago. I stuck with Boris Pasternak’s classic and was glad I did. The same was true of Ms. Ryker’s first novel.
I may just have encapsulated the similarity between this author and that one.
Take the Body and Run takes place on a sprawling college campus where things are not as they seem. Macey Malloy (not her real name) has taken a job formerly held by a woman who looks a lot like she does. She is fleeing from her past. Most everyone else has something to hide, too.
It’s a lot to keep up with in the early pages. What keeps the reader, uh, reading is the author’s sense of humor. No matter how morbid the events become, Ms. Ryker keeps the reader amused. If the principal character occupies the center of the story, then there is always another pivotal figure nearby, quite often in Macey’s large purse, because the other character is a large black cat named Wikket. Wikket is unusually intelligent for a cat. Wikket is more intelligent than many of the humans.
When she begins her new job, Macey is surrounded by people who don’t particularly like her. They are fueled by resentment, suspicion, and evil intent, none of which Macey did anything to deserve. It takes much of the story to uncover all the layers of reasons why this is the case.
Only Wikket is really there for her. Wikket is a better judge of character than Macey is.
The author unabashedly categorizes her novel as “chick-lit,” which alone might have prevented me from reading it as I am not a chick. I read it because she read my 2015 novel Crazy of Natural Causes. She is a Kentuckian, and that novel is set in Kentucky. She was kind in her review of Crazy, and this gave me an incentive to read Take the Body and Run.
It is a whodunit in the classic sense. The effectiveness of a whodunit is predicated on the reader really and truly not knowing “who done it.” The reader speculates as the pages pile up. My books to this point have not been whodunits. In my books, “who done it” is obvious. The theme of my books has been finding out how “who done it” can be stopped.
This difference gave me something in the margins to ponder.
Over the years and particularly when I was younger, I experienced many raucous nights in bars but none so raucous as the one Macey experiences with her university colleagues and affiliated characters whom the reader is destined to know better.
By the end, all the mysteries are unraveled, the motivations revealed, and the mysteries resolved. One facet Ms. Ryker’s yarn shares with mine is that the story speeds to a breakneck (literally in several cases) conclusion. If the first pages are confusing, then the last ones are frantically enlightening.
When I got through, I said “whew.”
If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Cowboys Come Home, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise)
I’ve written five novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is on sale for 99 cents all January as a Kindle download at amazon.com.
The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.
My new novel is a western, Cowboys Come Home. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.
I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.
I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.
I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.
I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.
I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.
Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).