IN THE REALM: Fall Reading Part Two

Mystery

river of glass

River of Glass by Jaden Terrell
The Permanent Press [October]
RATING: ****/5*

When the body of a young Vietnamese woman is found in a dumpster outside Nashville private investigator Jared McKean’s office he becomes linked to the case since she’s clutching a photo of Jared’s father. A few days later, a Vietnamese woman named Khanh, saying she’s his half-sister, shows up and asks for help in finding her missing daughter Tuyet. While former police detective McKean hesitates he takes her case because he can’t turn the woman easily away. Soon they’re investigating the dark world of human-trafficking. Working the case, McKean aggravates his former police co-workers yet at the same time they grudgingly trust and respect each other, albeit.

“I wanted to protect Khanh, to keep her in the shadows while I followed threads and searched for her daughter, but I understand now that, even if she’d had reason to trust me, she needed to play a part in bringing Tuyet home. She’d walked into a minefield to save Trinh, but she had failed. That failure made her doubt herself. It made her doubt me. It made her doubt the probability that Tuyet–that anyone—could be saved.”

As for the human trafficking, Terrell shows that it can happen anywhere and can involve anyone– maybe the least likely candidate hiding in plain sight. It’s sad, it’s depraved and unbelievable it could be happening in your own backyard but that is today’s reality. Women are chattel used for sex and tossed when no longer young, pretty or useful. Treated like slaves. Because that’s just what’s going on. There’s also a sweet bond developing between McKean and his maybe half-sister Khanh, a determined woman with a war-weary past. Terrell adds twists to keep the reader turning pages. She’s created quite the character in private investigator Jared McKean.

Memoir

story of fester cat

The Story of Fester Cat by Paul Magrs
Berkley Trade [November]
RATING: ***/5*

“I’m a cat, you see. I understand this stuff. Cats live in the here and now. We are opportunists and chancers. We are pragmatists. We change all the time.

That’s what the nine lives thing means.”

This is the story of a stray cat adopted in his later years by a gay couple near Manchester, England. Or rather Fester chose the two men, Paul and Jeremy, as cats do. It’s as much about the cat as about Paul and Jeremy. To write the couple’s story from the perspective and voice of a cat makes it a clever and entertaining read. Fester overhears Paul and Jeremy discussing a range of subjects, entertaining guests and occasionally arguing. Paul’s easy-going while Jeremy’s more neat and organized. Generally the men get along but like any couple who’ve been together for more than a few years, they have clashes and annoyances with each other.

“Jeremy is forever railing against authority figures. I am coming to realize this. He gets especially cross when those with authority are morons, as he puts it. Jeremy spends a lot of his time being exasperated.”

Fester lives with Paul and Jeremy for eight lovely years. They treat him quite well—he gets a smorgasbord of food, special treats and lots of attention particularly from Paul who works mostly at home after he gives up his teaching job to focus on writing. When he arrives at the guys’ home, Fester’s flea-ridden and terribly mangy. They take him to the vet and through the years he’s treated for worms [in a funny scene, Magrs writes: “Well, I’m mortified. Worms! Worms at Christmas. Not very bloomin’ festive, is it? I got to flomp down miserably in my basket while Jeremy goes to the vet’s. Now I daren’t even look at my bum in case I see something staring back at me.”], a thyroid condition and then a stroke.

The subtitle says “How One Remarkable Cat Changed Two Men’s Lives.” I didn’t find that Paul and Jeremy’s lives were extraordinarily changed by the addition of the cat. I adore cats but this isn’t Marley & Me. Cats are wonderful, independent, enigmatic creatures. Like a cat sometimes the memoir is warm and fuzzy and sometimes it is quiet and reflective. Taking care of Fester proves to be a touching way for the two men to come together for one purpose. Taking care of Fester strengthened Paul and Jeremy’s relationship.

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