Well, this one was a surprise! I chose it because I liked Randall Silvis' writing style in Two Days Gone, but what a difference!
Blood and Ink is a dark comedy about a literary mobster who falls in love, decides to change his life, and then encounters one disaster after another. Nick is extremely well-read (he would have made a wonderful literature professor), but his day job involves working for a mob boss. Since this has been his way of life since he was an adolescent, he is surprised by a general sense of dissatisfaction with his situation, which leads to a mid-life crisis, and eventually, to his desire to be a better man.
Most of his attempts at becoming that better man result in one hilarious mishap after another and kept me grinning even as I worried about whether Nick would be able to survive all of obstacles that kept falling into his path and overcome his past. Retirement is not always an option for a wise guy.
Is Silvis doing a little parody of Quentin Tarantino? Satirical humor, a little violence, but no murder and no gore. In fact, Nick's crisis seems to coalesce while watching a film of extreme, but unrealistic violence. The simmering qualms and foreboding Nick has been subconsciously harboring erupt, and Nick's anger is directed at the young writer/producer of the film.
Both Two Days Gone and Blood & Ink have a love of literature and skillful prose in common, but content and style are remarkably different. Two Days is a psychological mystery/crime novel and Blood & Ink is a dark comedy of errors that keeps you rooting for the erudite and hapless Nick.
Although I usually eschew books about mobs or wise guys, Blood & Ink proved to be a fascinating and (mostly) funny romp with several unexpected surprises! Recommended.
Read in July.
Dark Comedy/Crime. 2015. Print length: 230 pages.
When You Disappeared by John Marrs is another recent read that held genuine surprises. As committed (addicted?) readers, we come to expect certain general plots and to be surprised when a narrative veers from what we anticipate.
When You Disappeared took me off that beaten path, proving surprising in a number of ways....
Catherine assumes her husband has gone for a run when she awakes to find him absent; when he doesn't return and fails to show up at work, she becomes worried.
Twenty-five years later, Simon turns up at her door and wants to tell Catherine his story. Although Catherine doesn't particularly want to hear the story, she desperately wants to know why a loving husband and father would leave his wife and three children with no forewarning that anything was wrong.
Alternating between past and present and between Catherine's voice and Simon's voice, the reader begins accumulating information that informs each personality. From the beginning, Simon insists that he will only tell Catherine the reason he left after recounting his story. He intends to put a sting at the end to make certain Catherine realizes everything that has happened is her responsibility.
At first you might feel some sympathy for Simon, but his tendency to rationalize his decisions is questionable early on. His subsequent behavior as he continues to relate it to Catherine becomes inexcusable. I'm not quite sure his problem is specifically listed in the DSM.
Catherine's narrative covers the hardships of suddenly finding herself a single mother without adequate income, her grief over the loss of the man she loved intensely, her struggles to keep her children housed, fed, and emotionally healthy. She refuses for years to believe that Simon left voluntarily, assuming that he is dead.
Clearly the initiating event occurred some time before Simon left, and a couple of possibilities that could have prompted Simon's behavior occurred to me, but the truth, when it finally arrived was even more disturbing.
When You Disappeared is a compelling and disquieting novel that held my (sometimes reluctant) attention as Simon's self-satisfied and self-justified story is revealed.
Read in July.
Psychological Suspense. July 13, 2017. Print length: 350 pages.