Monday, August 29, 2016

Review of "Everybody's Fool" by Richard Russo




I randomly chose this audiobook from the library shelf, not realizing it was a follow-up to "Nobody's Fool," which I haven't read. Still, the people in "Everybody's Fool" have enough backstory - and are so vividly depicted - that I felt okay reading it as a standalone. I found the story engaging, touching, and funny - filled with great characters and memorable scenes. 

The story takes place in the down-on-its-luck town of North Bath in upstate New York. As the book opens, Chief of Police Douglas Raymer is attending the funeral of Judge Barton Flatt, who often made fun of the hapless cop - especially when Raymer's wild shot almost hit an elderly woman on her toilet. Raymer's also brooding because he found a garage remote in the car of his late wife Becka. Raymer's sure the remote belonged to Becka's secret lover and thinks he can identify the man by testing the device on garages around town. 

But a series of adventures and misadventures - including fainting into the judge's grave, losing the remote, getting hit by lightning, hunting for a loose cobra, dealing with a dim deputy, and tracking down a hit-and-run driver - make it hard for Raymer to carry out his plan. Raymer also has a soft spot for his assistant Charice, whose back porch he nearly wrecks, and worries that Charice's cop brother Jerome might be after his job.

Meanwhile, Raymer's 'frenemy' Sully - a sort of bad boy construction worker who's now 70 years old and unexpectedly wealthy - has developed a serious heart ailment. Sully still likes to stop by the diner run by his married ex-lover Ruth and hang out in Gert's bar - where he's usually joined by Rub, a mentally slow grave digger who views Sully as his best friend. Over the course of the story Sully offers to assist Carl Roebuck - a huckster developer whose shoddy projects have been (spectacularly) exposed; helps Chief Raymer dig up a body; and faces off with Roy Purdy - a thief, wife-beater, and ex-con who has scores to settle. Purdy is easily the most despicable character in the story. 

Other interesting characters include: the mayor's wife Alice, who frequently 'speaks to people' on the detached handset of her pink princess phone - which she seems to think is a cell phone; Alice's former husband - a horrible man and gifted mimic who delights in manipulating and tormenting people; Sully's dog, also called Rub - a neurotic pooch who's always getting the pee scared out of him; a shiftless apartment sitter who drinks beer, watches TV, and not quite knowingly signs for packages containing venomous snakes; Ruth's daughter (and Purdy's ex-wife) Janey - who can't stay away from her violent ex; and Miss Beryl - the deceased teacher who really cared about Sully and Raymer.

I was amused by the humorous situations the characters get into and liked the book's comic tone. On the other hand I hated Roy Purdy and hoped he'd get what was coming to him. The zany action in the story leads to a plausible and satisfying ending...with room for another volume in the series. I'd highly recommend the book to fans of humorous literary novels.

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