Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Watcher in the Pine

I met Rebecca Pawel at the Chicago Bouchercon -- she was manning the IAWC desk in the dealer room. A fellow Stuy High alum (though many years my junior so she never got to attend school at the Incredible Sinking Building on 15th Street. Instead, she went to shiny new builing with indoor swimming pool under a retractable gym floor.

Of course, Frank McCourt didn't teach English at her version of Stuy High, so we'll call it even. (Not that McCourt ever taught me, mind you, still it was an option for artsy students in the know. I was neither artsy nor in the know.)

In any event, I bought her book The Watcher in the Pine. I had her sign it and I've read it, and now I would like to rave about it.

Great Googali-Moogali is this good writing. The mystery takes backseat to the character development, but that is no knock in my reviewing lexicon -- in fact that's about the highest praise I have for a book. In any event, I haven't read the first two books in the series (an omission I hope to rectify soon) but Carlos y su mujer are real people to me. And I like them. And Carlos is a Facist! How do you make a Facist likeable? I don't know. Ask Rebecca.

Now you may ask, "But do I really want to spend money on a book where the backseat is filled with mystery, but character development is in the driver's seat?" Well, first, "Hell yeah." But then second, the plot is top-notch as well. It's just that the characters are... well, they're top-notcher. (Or top-notchest?) In any event, the plot contains a move to a new town (perfectly drawn so that you'll believe you've been there), duplicitous deputies (how often do you get to use that phrase?) and a possible separatist cell getting funds from places unknown. Oh, and there's a dead guy in a river. Go figure. Frankly, I was even suspecting the local priest who, I must say, still doesn't seem quite kosher to me. Anyway, in the words of Siskel and Ebert: Two Thumbs Way Up.


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