A Fistful of Rain

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Monday, August 15, 2005
by Greg Rucka #27

I read about this book somewhere (helpful, no?) - wherever I read it said this was a mystery by a guy who seemed to know Portland and write it well. Sounds good, I thought. Actually, I thought 'we'll see about that!'
I've read another series mystery that is set in Portland (the Claire Montrose mysteries by April Henry) and they are not so great. I liked the first one well enough, I read the second one and likely will never read another. Her Portland bears only superficial resemblance to the city I live in - a few place names are the same, a few lame PNW stereotypes (oh, look! It's plaid. It's fir trees. It's roses. It's recycling.), and that's about it. Those books remind me of the stuff in airport gift shops - the same crap you find everywhere else, but with a local slogan or icon slapped on the top. It wouldn't bother me as much if I didn't know better.
Back to Greg Rucka. His Portland, I recognize. Not only are the neighborhoods familiar (his protagonist lives not far from where I do), but the spirit of the city - the off-center, kind of isolated, kind of weird, ingrained loopiness and smugness that permeates the whole town - is on display as well. This book is written first person through the eyes of Mim Bracca - famous rock guitarist who is now in the middle of some strange, bad stuff. I know nothing about being a rock-star, but his Portland was true enough that I believe him about the rock-star stuff and the cop/mystery stuff. Not that it has to be true, of course, but it is believable. And even though he's writing first person, he manages to get in just enough exposition without my (fairly tuned) exposition-meter going into the red. A Fistful of Rain is a pretty intense thriller. If you want to curl up with a mystery solved by a cat or a magic recipe, this is not the book for you!

Take The Cannoli [Stories from the New World] by Sarah Vowell #28

Another series of essays from my favorite cranky/thoughtful writer. Unlike The Partly Cloudy Patriot, these are not primarily political or historical essays - but of course since she thinks about these things a lot, it comes up. My favorites were These Little Town Blues, Ixnay on the My Way, American Goth, Drive Through Please, Thanks for the Memorex, Chelsea Girl, and Shooting Dad. Oooh -and the ones about her grudge match with Andrew Jackson, and the Disney World one. Really - they are all good. If you haven't read it yet, you should.
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