Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Rainy City - Earl Emerson

The Rainy City is the first book in Earl Emerson's Thomas Black mystery series. Thomas Black lives in Seattle - a la "The Rainy City" - with his renter, Kathy. Kathy is a first-year law student and she rents the basement of Black's house. It is Kathy who talks Black into investigating the disappearance of her friend Melissa and the subsequent "kidnapping" of Melissa's daughter Angel. Angel is abducted but she's abducted by Melissa's parents, and everyone knows that they have her. Angel's father is pretty much a wet noodle and does nothing to try to get Angel back.

Along the way of Thomas and Kathy's investigations, two people are killed, a pimp is knifed in the leg, and the missing body from a supposed twenty-year-old suicide is uncovered. There is definitely no loss for action going on in this book. I, personally, would have been very happy if Emerson had left out the part about the dog being brutally murdered. It really was unnecessary in the whole scheme of things, and I hate violence against animals in books (personal preference).

While I thought the plot was just so-so, I loved the characters in this novel. Well, I loved Thomas and Kathy. Melissa's husband Burton was a little hard to figure out. I wasn't really sure what Emerson was trying to do with him, but I kept feeling that he didn't quite finish what he started with Burton. Burton was, as I said, a "wet noodle." He let people walk all over him. And Emerson couldn't have gotten more stereotypical with him...Burton is a poet. Several people throughout the book make the comment "don't underestimate Burton." However, there isn't any action on Burton's part that justifies that statement. Melissa is the character in the end who finds her gumption.

Now Thomas and Kathy on the other hand are rich, strong characters. Thomas is unique in that he rides a bike - no not a motorcycle; I said a bike, an honest-to-God ten-speed bicycle. He even has special SHOES to ride his bicycle. And Thomas is along the lines of an Elvis Cole or a Lincoln Perry when it comes to sarcastic humor. Of course, that is a trait I find attractive in my P.I. characters, so that endeared Thomas to me right away. I noted in my book a thought Thomas had, and I wanted to share it because Emerson wrote this book in 1985 - today, this statement is so much more true than it was in '85, how could Emerson ever have known?

We're all voyeurs and life is a picnic. People have little boxes in their living rooms and they sit in front of the boxes six or eight hours a night and goggle at other people living their lives. It's called television by some. Me, I call it voyeurism.

Uhm, hello? Can you say "reality T.V?"

The element of Thomas's character that really drove it all home for me, though, is the reason he left the police force. Thomas shot a kid who was high on drugs and trying to run him down with a car. Thomas never was able to deal with killing the boy, and he ultimately left the force and doesn't like to handle a gun any longer. While I don't mind characters wielding guns in my books - wouldn't be much to the crime in crime fiction if they didn't - I don't like protagonist characters who seem unfazed by the violence associated with killing. For me as a reader, that indicates a lack of depth.

Kathy is a fun character. She's not afraid to be different; she speaks her mind; she isn't afraid to walk in on Thomas in the bath...

As I said, the plot was average to me. In the midst of the book I was turning pages because I was very intrigued to find out what was going to happen, but then the conclusion was rather flat. I was anxiously waiting for something more dramatic to happen with all the conflict and foreshadowing throughout the rising action. So when the conclusion came, I was asking myself, "really? That's it?" However, I can assure you that I will be continuing this series because I want to follow the characters. Emerson did a great job of reeling me in with Thomas and Kathy!


beauvallet October 18, 2008 at 11:04 PM  

Sorry this one didn't do it for you, Jen. Ah, well, that's why there are so many books: We all have differing tastes.

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