Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Read: "In Search of Mercy" by Michael Ayoob

Read: In Search of Mercy by Michael Ayoob, 2010, 9780312644925.

I just realized this is a brand new book. Well, a month and 18 days old. I reserved this after an email from Mystery One plugged it.

Set in 2000 (or so). Dexter is a outstanding HS hockey goalie in Pittsburgh. He bombs at the state championship game and sneaks out rather than risk the violent crowd. On his way home Dexter is kidnapped by fans of the opposing team and brutalized. Eight years later he has a lousy warehouse job, a cot in his pal's basement and has not spoken to his father in about six years.

Dexter works in a produce warehouse up the street from his father's store. One night he meets Lou, the co-owner of another produce warehouse who looks and smells like a bum. Lou pays Dexter $100 to take Lou back to Lou's packrat and dust encrusted home and bury Lou's dead, frozen cat. Later on Lou asks Dexter to find Lou's former fiancee, Agnes Zagbroski. Agnes is better known as Mercy Carnahan a famous film actress who disappeared and has been unfound for 50 years. Lou is soon to die of cancer and Dexter, compelled by Lou's dresser drawer full of hoarded cash decides to start looking.

Dexter is also motivated by a desire to mentally improve. He dropped out of college after two years and has been working a dead end job since. His weekends are mostly spent doped up so he can sleep straight through. He is very tightly wound in an attempt to keep back the panic attacks and dizzy spells that occur whenever he thinks of his abduction. Dexter will occasionally see masked faces in a crowd or hallucinate them attacking him.

Dexter hooks up with his new hot chick warehouse manager and heads to New York to investigate. Dexter looks. Dexter finds. Dexter vividly dreams of the femme fatale film version of Mercy. Dexter keeps looking and finding. Dexter fights his terrors. Hot Chick fails at her fears. Dexter faces fears. Dexter finds Agnes. Ending is mysterious - to me anyway.

1. This feels like first novel do-too-much-at-once-itis. Maybe I am being unfair but there is a lot of extra stuff in here. The Hot Chick Manager. Crazy guy and family in New Jersey. Dexter's loser pal. Sure, everything ties in and I like the book but I can complain all I want.
2. Ayoob makes much use of the Pittsburgh setting with geography, different neighborhoods, sporting culture, anti-fag/pussy/girlie attitudes in sports. I did not drive around the city much - that I recall - but getting around on those twisting two-laners that pass as highways there had me constantly confused about where I was.
3. Good job by Ayoob putting together the mental mix-up that is Dexter.
4. Ambiguity of ending SPOILER ALERT was odd to me. Dexter returns to Lou's house after Lou's death to collect the drawer full of cash promised to him by Lou. He finds the drawer empty and note signed by Mercy. Was the cash taken by Agnes? Dexter in a mental fog? The spirit of Mercy? I presume it was the spirit of Mercy who, after all, spoke to Agnes and Dexter both. But, I'm not sure about the whole ending because there was nothing supernatural style earlier.
5. How many people ask Ayoob if he is related to the gun writer?
6. A poster on Bill Crider's blog had a comment about a novel with an ambiguous ending and settled on the: "if he'd 'a wanted ya to know he'd 'a told ya" rule."

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