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Baby Driver


The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel by Garth Stein (Harper Perennial, $14.99, 321 pages)

There are certain books you look back on, years later, and think, "That was some story!" This is one of those books. It is a touching, emotional story made all the more so because its narrator is a dog facing his approaching death. As the story begins, Enzo the dog is ready to accept his fate; in fact, in a way he welcomes it because he believes – based on what he observed on a public television documentary, that his soul will then be freed to return to life as a human being. Enzo's lifelong study of these creatures with opposable thumbs and the ability to speak clearly has convinced him that he'll do quite well in his next life.

While this story will leave you with a warm and fuzzy heart (and moist eyes) at the conclusion, it is filled with a lot of the negative things that can happen to people in this life… Which is why the tale includes stops at a jail, a criminal courtroom, a hospital, and a cemetery. Even two-thirds or three-fourths of the way through you'll begin to doubt that there can be such a thing as a happy conclusion to this dog-gone tale. But hang in there, reader, because author Garth Stein begins pulling the rabbits out of his writing hat in the very last pages; with this, his writing takes on a certain special quality. Let's call it the ability to fashion a sparkling magical mystery trip.

As with Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr., you won’t see the ending coming until it’s upon you. And as with Everything…, there’s a fake ending followed by a reprise (or slight return as per Jimi Hendrix) that ties everything together. Maybe. Or maybe the final ending isn’t what it seems to be. This is something that will keep you thinking for a few days after finishing this novel.

I hope and pray that if this fictional tale is made into a movie they don’t change a thing – The Time Traveler’s Wife, anyone? – including maintaining Enzo as the story’s narrator. Now, let’s see, who would be the ideal voice of Enzo? Me, I hear Nicolas Cage when I think of Enzo, but that’s just me. As Enzo would say (or bark out), “I know a lot about a lot of things, but I don’t know everything about everything.”

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

If you read and enjoy The Art of Racing in the Rain, you will likely also enjoy reading the fun and marvelous Walking in Circles Before Lying Down: A Novel by Merrill Markoe. It’s another fine feast for dog lovers, available as a trade paperback book (Villard, $13.95, 288 pages).

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Thunder on the Mountain

Deed to Death: A Novel by D. B. Henson (Touchstone; $14.00; 288 pages)

“Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes…”   Bob Dylan, “Thunder on the Mountain”

D. B. Henson’s Deed to Death is action-packed from start to finish.   It opens with the death of Scott Chadwick, a real estate developer, who is on the cusp of his wedding to Toni Matthews, a real estate agent.   When authorities rule the death a suicide, Toni takes matters into her own hands, challenging contemporary wisdom, and – before it’s all over – seemingly half the world.

If Toni were a cat, a sequel would not be possible (as all of her nine lives were used up in this tale).   Good guys become bad guys, and, in some cases, morph back into good guys at the drop of a hat, forcing the damsel in distress to conjure disguises, secret plans, and take dangerous chances to vindicate her lover’s death.   Forget putting her life back together.   Survival becomes the name of the game.

Surprises come even more frequently in the final third of the book in the form of gunshots, kidnappings, and great escapes until, finally, the story concludes with the “real” good guys coming out on top.

The final, final ending is a bit contrived and probably unnecessary.   It doesn’t seem to make much sense in light of the fact that the reader doesn’t gain much insight into the characters, subplots, and subtleties because that’s not really the point of this particular novel.   Nonetheless, for what the novel sets out to do – to tell a suspense thriller the likes of which one might see on TV’s Lifetime or USA, it succeeds.


Dave Moyer

A review copy was received from the publisher.   “…good fun.   Exquisite plotting, stunning twists and a heroine you can’t stop rooting for make Deed to Death a fascinating debut.”   Allison Leotta, author of Law of Attraction.

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