Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Repo Madness

Repo Madness
by W. Bruce Cameron
Recommended Ages: 14+

To express how eager I was to read this second book in the "Repo Man" or "Ruddy McCann" series (after Midnight Plan of the Repo Man), I shouldn't need to say much more than, "I paid full price for the hardcover at Barnes & Noble." That's $25.99, folks. And I'm cheap. The last new-release hardcover I bought before this was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - a few minutes past midnight, July 7, 2009. But I loved Ruddy McCann, and I pestered booksellers at several other stores before I found a copy that had just arrived and hadn't even been put out on the shelf. And then I quit reading another book I was really enjoying because I couldn't wait to read this. Now let me add: I was not disappointed. Need I say more?

OK, so I'll say more. Ruddy McCann, in case you don't know, is a once-promising Michigan State quarterback whose life went into the drink with him one night when he mistook a boat ramp for the highway, and was pulled out of the icy water by a couple of pot-heads who happened to be nearby. The drunk co-ed who was sleeping it off in the backseat of his car didn't make it, washing ashore five days later. Ruddy took it on the chin, doing a prison term for murder even though he wasn't legally drunk. Now, after a further misunderstanding with the law landed him on probation, we find him dividing his time between such peaceful, fulfilling routines as bouncing at his sister's bar, repossessing cars for a lowlife named Milt, missing the voice in his head that claimed to be his fiancee Katie's dead father Alan, and... Well, I figured that last one might catch you. You really should catch up on your reading; that title again is Midnight Plan of the Repo Man.

But trouble is never far from Ruddy McCann for very long. And when it comes, it comes in heaps. Two years after saving her from the men who murdered her father, Ruddy is worried about his relationship with Katie, who is talking about needing a break. He is worried about his best friend Jimmy, who is having an affair with a married woman; about a couple of crusty old barflies who have fallen prey to a scam; and about his new court-ordered psychiatrist, who actually cares whether he is taking his court-ordered medicine. And then a strange girl walks up to him and tells him he may not be responsible for the death of Lisa Marie Walker - an idea that somehow puts Ruddy on the trail of a serial killer. And then Milt suddenly dies, an apparent suicide - but something about it doesn't sit right. And then a banker, who Ruddy knows is the husband of Jimmy's girlfriend, hires Ruddy to do some of his dirty work - and it keeps getting dirtier. And then, and then, and then... once the pace gets rolling, these new problems swirl together into a Northern Lower Michigan winter storm of danger for Ruddy and everyone he holds dear.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention - Alan comes back. And though Ruddy missed him while he was gone, he is more convinced than ever that Alan is really a figment of his imagination - though the disembodied ex-realtor would be hurt to hear that. The bickering, bantering chemistry of Alan and Ruddy is a lot like having "The Odd Couple" squeezed into one man's head, with Alan disapproving of Ruddy and Katie's romantic involvement, Ruddy's diet, Ruddy's household and personal hygiene, and Ruddy's damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead approach to dealing with people.

Also back are Ruddy's lovable but malapropism-prone brother-in-law Kermit, who is now also his boss; ex-sheriff and all-around stand-up guy Barry Strickland, who is now his co-worker; Ruddy's lazy but lovable basset hound Jake; and the old familiar conks on the head, struggles for survival, gruesome surprises, sweeping crescendos of suspense and accelerandos of action, frequent touches of goofball humor and sweet romance, and the surprising patterns that fall out of Ruddy's distinctive way of juggling multiple complex problems. I already anticipate being a pest to local booksellers when the third book in this series approaches its release date. It hasn't been announced yet, but I'm sure it's going to happen, given the loose ends left dangling at the end of this most entertaining book.

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