Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man
by W. Bruce Cameron
Recommended Ages: 13+

Ruddy McCann is an out-of-shape ex-football player who almost won a Heisman trophy, before a deadly accident sent him to prison and ended his sports career. Now he steals cars for a living (repossesses them, actually), and moonlights at a bouncer at his sister Becky's struggling bar. Not much of a people person, his best friends are a lazy mutt named Jake, a movie-star-handsome loser named Jimmy, and (in distant third) a word-mangling screw-up named Kermit, who happens to be his boss's nephew. But then he starts falling in love with a girl named Katie. At about the same time, he also starts hearing a voice in his head who claims to be a dead man named Alan - and, conicidentally, Katie's dad.

Ruddy thinks he must be going crazy. Maybe it's like his boss Milt says, and he's developing Repo Madness. But the theory that Alan is a personality invented by his fractured psyche doesn't explain why a vivid dream depicting Alan's death leads Ruddy to a real-world place he has never been before - and the discovery of a body positively identified as the real Alan Lottner.

Lottner was last seen eight years ago, just before someone firebombed a local nursing home and killed 32 elderly people. His own family, including Katie, couldn't be sure he didn't do it, didn't simply disappear under his own power. But Ruddy seems to know too much about the case for a guy who was in prison when the murders happened. The local sheriff is suspicious, especially given his witness's criminal history. And soon the real killers have good reason to be concerned that Ruddy may know too much about what they did. If only Ruddy wasn't a little more concerned about them. But you know repo men (or you will, if you read this book). Pretty confrontational guys.

This is a very entertaining and unusual novel. It has all the best ingredients of a superb mystery-thriller, including a sleuth who comes in an unexpected form. The voice of Alan in his head gives him an unusual insight into the crime, while his status with the law forces him to go about crime-solving in an equally unusual way. Ruddy is a very distinctive character, a man of action who has a surprisingly keen mind, a mean S.O.B. with a tender side, an honorable man haunted by a dark past, a man who loves and hates with unfiltered zest, a man with a mouth for laugh-aloud lines and sarcastic comebacks. And in the crescendo of action and violence toward the end of this book, he takes several serious beatings and, practically beyond the ordinary rules of life, keeps coming back for more. His adventure in this book is all at once exciting, touching, funny, and scary. So it's welcome news to know he has another adventure on the way.

W. Bruce Cameron is the author of several humorous non-fiction books, including 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, which I think was the basis of the sitcom John Ritter was starring in at the time of his death, and of a series of books about reincarnated dogs, starting with A Dog's Purpose. This 2014 book was his first thriller in a series called either Repo Man or Ruddy McCann; its sequel, Repo Madness, is slated for release in August 2016.

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