Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Right Side ~ Spencer Quinn (earc) review [@atriabooks @ChetTheDog]

The Right Side
Atria Books
June 27, 2017
336 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Read review (under the book description) first if you want to avoid spoilers . . .

LeAnne Hogan went to Afghanistan as a rising star in the military, and came back a much lesser person, mentally and physically. Now missing an eye and with half her face badly scarred, she can barely remember the disastrous desert operation that almost killed her. She is confused, angry, and suspects the fault is hers, even though nobody will come out and say it.

Shattered by one last blow—the sudden death of her hospital roommate, Marci—LeAnne finds herself on a fateful drive across the country, reflecting on her past and seeing no future. Her native land is now unfamiliar, recast in shadow by her one good eye, her damaged psyche, and her weakened body. Arriving in the rain-soaked small town in Washington state that Marci had called home, she makes a troubling discovery: Marci’s eight-year-old daughter has vanished. When a stray dog—a powerful, dark, unreadable creature, no one’s idea of a pet—seems to adopt LeAnne, a surprising connection is formed and something shifts inside her. As she becomes obsessed with finding Marci’s daughter, LeAnne and her inscrutable canine companion are drawn into danger as dark and menacing as her last Afghan mission. This time she has a strange but loyal fellow traveler protecting her blind side.

Half (at least) of The Right Side takes place prior to  most of the second paragraph of the book description. While reading the novel, I admit, I kept wondering when the dog was going to show up. There is, after all, a dog on the cover, mentioned in the description and it's written by Spencer Quinn (writer of the Chet & Bernie Mysteries). As things progressed, though, I was glad that we got to know LeAnne - both in the present and through peeks at her past - first.

If her meeting with the dog had come earlier, readers would just think she was mean and angry. Coming, as it does, after all that we've already seen and what we've learned of LeAnne it still is those things, but you understand the why better.

There is some great foreshadowing or symmetry or whatever in the beginning:
"Right side taillight still intact?"
"What's intact?"
LeAnne peered down. She had very sharp eyesight, according to Dr Ralpundi, who did the preseason examinations for all the sports teams -- 20/15 in her left eye, even better in her right. "Yeah."
"Break it."
-pg 4
LeAnne is not a happy person. After losing her eye following an attack in Afghanistan, not to mention having friends die, she's at Walter Reed, supposedly receiving care and dealing with things. Except, she's not so much dealing with things as forgetting about them and/or deciding not to deal with them. Her memory is faulty, she's in pain, she's angry and not content to do what others tell her.

The glimpses at who LeAnne was both prior to that last mission and prior to her joining the army not only let us see who she was (and how different and not so different it is from who she is now) but understand some of the decisions she made.

LeAnne is a messed up character, but with some very real, understandable reasons. She is someone you can relate to and empathize with, even if you don't share any of her experiences. The addition f the dog to her life and the story is fantastic. It is not an easy fit (at least not outwardly) but it is perfect. They both have strong personalities and I truly loved their interactions and what they brought out in each other. There was something kind of magical there.
The Right Side is very different from Spencer Quinn's Chet & Bernie Mysteries and readers may be used to his lighter, humorous writing but this novel and character, with their darker, more troubled and pained story are very well written. (That's not to say there's not some humor here, too, but it doesn't have the same tone as Chet's.) The dog is, of course, fantastic fantastic and a perfectly integral character.

digital review copy received, via NetGalley, thanks to publisher

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