Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quick hit - Dooley Takes the Fall

Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock
4Q 3P; Audience: J/S (high school)

I thought I'd already started a blog post about this one, but apparently not. It's the last of the books I read a couple of months ago that I wanted to write about. I've been carrying it around with me for way too long, so this will be a very short post so I can get it out on the shelf where it belongs.

Dooley's had his brushes with the law. In fact, he's on parole and under the very strict guardianship of his uncle, a former cop. But sometimes a guy has to breathe freely for a bit before he submits to going back to life's narrow confines. So when Dooley gets out of work a bit early one night, he takes the opportunity to take the long way home. This isn't in his parole guidelines, so it's definitely not information he'd like to get out. But when he comes foot to face with a dead body, keeping quiet isn't an option. Will the police believe him when he tells them he had nothing to do with the guy's death? That he saw the guy jump (fall?) from the bridge, but that's all he knows? They might believe him, if it weren't for his police record - - and the fact that the kid's backpack and camera are missing, and his family swears he never went anywhere without them. Add to that the fact that, while it's true that Dooley didn't really know the kid, it's also true that they weren't exactly strangers either. When evidence suggests that this was a murder, not a suicide, Dooley is in it up to his eyeballs.

What stood out for me with this book is how real Dooley seemed. He knows he's messed up in the past, and he's trying to get his life back on track, but that doesn't mean he enjoys treading the straight and narrow. He struggles with it and he makes mistakes. Costly ones. It's hard for him to trust his uncle and the other people who say they're on his side, and it's hard for them to trust him, too. That leads to more complications. When Dooley begins to fall for a girl, he's afraid to pursue it, knowing that she'd never fall for a guy with a background like his. When he finds out who she really is, he's more afraid than ever to tell her the whole truth. But again, that turns out to be a big mistake, given that she has ties to the dead boy.

Through it all, Dooley wants to do the right thing and struggles with knowing what that is. He occasionally feels sorry for himself, but he also acknowledges that he's earned some of his problems because his past and present actions. His mistakes and his growth felt real and I got caught up in his story, hoping he'd be smart and trust the right people and fearing he wouldn't. The book moves along at a brisk pace and McClintock keeps the tension building and the twists coming. I thought the denouement was weaker than the rest of the book (a little more forced and somewhat less believeable), but it is still an excellent mystery/suspense novel.

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