Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bullets that Remain and the Problems They Cause

 The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly (2015) is a new thriller by journalist Kelly that kept me so engrossed on my day off that I put off my to-do list til the next day. Georgetown professor Caroline Cashion feels increasing pain in her wrist which turns out to be caused, not by carpal tunnel syndrome, but by a stray bullet buried deep in her neck - despite the fact that she has no memory of ever being shot. The story takes off like a, oh yes, a shot, and provides a page-turning adventure. Cashion finds out how and when she got shot and follows up the cold case that is the story of her childhood trauma. 

This was not the first book I have read about a bullet left in a shooting victim who lives, only to experience side-effects years later. The library book group read Traveler by Ron McLarty a few years ago. The blog review is below. Kelly's book is a thriller in the style of Gone Girl where the plot may sometimes seem improbable, but the suspense about what happens next pushes the reader on quickly. McLarty's book is beautifully told and elegiac in style, so the books are not similar other than the premise of the bullet that was never removed as the driver of the plots. Thanks to Jean F. at Circulation Desk for the recommendation of The Bullet. By word of mouth, the book is circulating well at BHPL and there are several holds on it now. While you are waiting, read Traveler.

Traveler by Ron McLarty

first posted in 2010

The library evening book group will discuss Ron McLarty's Traveler on Tuesday night at 7:30 pm. Traveler, actor and author McLarty's second novel, has lived up to expectations of readers and critics after his critically acclaimed The Memory of Running.

The plot: middle-aged and middling part-time actor and bartender, Jono Riley returns to his working-class hometown of East Providence, Rhode Island, when he hears of the death of Marie, a childhood friend. A bullet left in Marie's body after a random and unsolved shooting in her childhood traveled to an artery and killed her in her sleep. Jono travels home to find that his gang of friends, now dispersed or dead, have changed. Narrated in the first person, Jono's memories of growing up are interwoven with the present day trip. During his visit, Jono and retired policeman Kenny Snowden solve the cases of the unsolved shooting of Marie and several other local unsolved shootings.

The beauty of this book, as with Art in America, the only other McLarty novel I've read, is in the voice of the narrator. Jono Riley's story is told in a conversational style that just flows like someone who can hold a group of friends spellbound with his storytelling ability. The mystery in the plot certainly holds the readers interest, but I felt that the trip down memory lane, revisiting old haunts, remembering old friends from highschool, re-experiencing the old neighborhood and the remaining parents of old friends, all of these things most people will relate to. So many people leave home after highschool graduation and really never live at home again, that the experience of trying to recapture the old days is almost universal. I don't know how it feels to be one of the people who stay in the hometown, but for everyone else, the nostalgia that comes with leaving home will resonate.
Jono Riley after helping Officer Snowden uncover a cache of guns in the old priest's trunk wonders:
"Standing alone, some wind whipping around and gray clouds rolling in, I felt it seemed to be the perfect time to ask myself what the hell I was doing here. Rhode Island. East Providence. The bartender/actor sinking in memories and mysteries...I remain essentially a child of the working class, seeking at the very least a modicum of order." (158) Jono Riley decides he needs to go back to New York City, his girlfriend, his present-day life to get his life in order.

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