reviewed by Gail Byrd
There are many positive things about this book. The plot is good, and moves at an excellent pace. It is written with an emphasis on sarcastic humor, and some of that really works. Once you get interested in the plot, the book is hard to put down.
There are unexpected twists and turns and characters who are vividly drawn, both their flaws and their good points. You want to like Andie, the profiler and Kenny, the newspaper reporter. They are the two who are followed the most, and initially it seems they have formed a team to see justice done. Finally, the storyline is also timely as it deals with racial injustice and divisiveness that radiates from the police department on down.
Conversely, as the double entendre in the title suggests, there are lots of references and jokes made relating to body parts and body functions, including some graphic descriptions. Initially Andie is introduced as a completely frazzled, heavily pregnant, mother of four who prefers her children be allowed to grow up in more of a “free-range” parenting style. She doesn’t like parenting and makes no bones about it. It’s with this attitude that she comes upon a crime scene, seeking a bathroom for her youngest. There are two main points of this encounter which illustrate the two different focuses of the writing. One is how Andie sees the scene as a profiler, visualizing and drawing conclusions from the evidence on display. Two is the graphic description of a toddler who reaches a point of being unable to delay her need for a bathroom any longer.
As the book progresses, it exposes issues of racism that emerge from the police department and government bureaucrats toward new residents of differing ethnic backgrounds. There is also a glimpse of what might be considered natural segregation as neighborhoods develop along cultural and ethnic lines, the result being that each group forms their own clique at social events such as soccer games for the children or time at the community pool. These are issues that exist today and contribute to the contemporary nature of the story.
As the plot unfolds, the reader learns the current murder is related to events that occurred close to sixty years ago. Then, as now, racism played a major part in creating the situation; but unlike the past, now there is a New York Jew and an Asian-American reporter who are working to discover who murdered a member of the Eastern Indian community. That portion of the story is well written and manages to walk a line between describing a broken, segregated society without moralizing about that brokenness while at the same time leaving no doubt that murder is wrong and justice for any murder victim, regardless of their race or culture, is an honorable goal. It is written in such a way the reader can decide their own reaction to the beliefs and actions which are detailed within the story.
As mentioned, however, there are some things in the book that may detract from the reader’s overall enjoyment. There are many graphic physical descriptions throughout the story itself. For some readers, it may be difficult to get past the opening chapter which details Andie’s unhappiness as a mother, her less than attentive parenting skills, and finally the vivid description of her daughter peeing at the scene of the crime.
In the body of the story, Andie and Kenny are compelled to visit some characters who are less than pleasant, including Kenny’s cold calculating mother, the three older men who have ties to the initial case, and other bureaucrats they encounter in their quest for the truth. These parts of the book add to the clarity of the story and are essential to follow Andie and Kenny as they unraveled the case. I also enjoyed the involvement of the FBI, and the tension between Ramon, their leader and Andie who have a history that ended when she got pregnant and left law enforcement.
My thanks to Penguin Group, G P Putnam Son’s and NetGalley for providing me with an advance digital copy for review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.