VJ Books Blog

(newbernsj.com, Ken Gruebel, Jan. 10)

I guess I have read about nearly every kind of detective that has lived and flourished on the fictional pages of all the many books that have passed in front of my eyes.

Among them there have been detectives who go to AA meetings, those who are trying to quit smoking, those with shady backgrounds (never quite specified), ex-Army detectives, old lady detectives (Miss Marple), French detectives (Hercule), the Continental Op, to name just a few that come to mind.

There are brilliant detectives like Sherlock Holmes and hard-boiled detectives like Phillip Marlow and Spenser. There were even lawyer detectives like Perry Mason, although he actually had Paul Drake on retainer, or so it seemed.

However, this is the first time that I have encountered a detective who is a quadriplegic. He can do nothing for himself, except that he thinks, not only for himself but for a lot of other people too.

His name is Lincoln Rhyme. He travels with two assistants. One is Amelia Sachs who like Lincoln himself, is a criminologist. The other is his personal assistant, a man named Thom. It is Thom who takes care of all the physical things that we take for granted, and that Lincoln can’t do. He has to be dressed, fed, washed, everything. He is this way since a beam crushed his spine. He uses a powered wheel chair to get around and has to be lifted in and out of it.

Now Lincoln sees a chance to regain at least some autonomy. Dr. Cheryl Weaver is going to perform surgery to restore some of Lincoln’s independent functions. And it is here the story starts.

Weaver’s clinic is in fictional Paquenoke County in our home state of North Carolina although I am not familiar with it. The nearest town, if it could be called that, is Tanner’s Corner, not the liveliest town in the state.

However before the surgery can be done the local sheriff wants to pick Lincoln’s brains for an unusual case. Garrett Hanlon, a local oddity, has been accused of murder and what is even more scary, he is accused of kidnapping a local girl and traipsing with her through the woods and swamps. The first priority is the safety of the girl.

Garrett Hanlon, called “Insect Boy” by the locals, is actually a very competent entomologist although he is only in his teens. He is an orphan that lives with a couple that doesn’t quite know what to make of him. It is not a very happy foster family.

Because Lincoln cannot travel easily it is up to Amelia Sachs to act as the criminologist, the so called crime scene investigator.

Starting on the ground where there has already been one murder, Amelia starts tracking the young boy, not realizing that there are three other trackers on her trail. These trackers, all locals, think there is a big reward for capturing the lad and are willing to bring him in dead, if at all possible, or alive if there are others watching. What these three lack in skill they more than make up for it with firepower. Normally they are heavily armed and almost equally heavily drunk.

There are many questions to be answered along the way. Did Amelia actually free Garrett Hanlon because she thought he would lead her to the kidnapped girl? Did one of the sheriff’s deputies become involved in something shady that is causing the entire town to exhibit strange symptoms? Is Lincoln Rhyme going to be able to keep his assistants in line and working toward a common goal?

Well of course I shall not reveal any of these secrets. I will answer some questions. Is it and interesting book? Yes. Is it well written? Yes again. Is Paquenoke County a real county in our fair state? Alas, no, it is fictional. Did I crack the puzzle, solve the crime, identify in my own mind who is guilty in this tiny town and who is not guilty? No, not by a long shot. Did I enjoy the story? Yes. An interesting book.

There is apparently a series of books about Lincoln Rhyme and his prowess in solving crimes. Did I know this? No. But a good read.

If you call and I don’t answer. If you email me and don’t receive a reply. If you hail me in the store or street and I just stand there grinning it is not because I lost the rest of my mind. It is because one of our sons whispered to Santa that I love books by Garrison Keillor and that is the next book I am going to read. It is entitled “Liberty” and concerns the Fourth of July celebration in Lake Wobegon.

Perhaps I shall try to put it in a plain brown wrapper so Mrs. Reviewer does not recognize the author. Keillor and Janet Evanovich are not welcome visitors to our bed because of my unseemly laughter. All will be revealed in my next outing.

Ken Gruebel can be contacted at verily@cconnect.net.