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Repo redux - 'Repo Madness'

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Comic mystery driven by quirky characters

Achieving success in one literary genre is difficult enough. There are thousands of writers out there working daily toward goals that only a scant percentage will actually achieve. And of those who achieve their goals and become published novelists, a tiny fraction will find a modicum of fame within the trappings of their chosen style.

But then you have someone like W. Bruce Cameron.

Cameron is someone who you might know for '8 Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.' You might know him for his series of dog books 'A Dog's Purpose' is set to become a major motion picture release this fall.

And if you're like me, you know him because of Ruddy McCann the repo man.

Cameron's latest is 'Repo Madness' (Forge, $25.99), a sequel to 2014's quirkily excellent 'The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man.' It marks the return of Ruddy McCann, the rough-and-tumble, tack-sharp repo man with an unwelcome inner voice. Ruddy has another mystery to solve and this one might change not only his future, but the way he views his past.

It has been 18 months since Ruddy McCann last heard the voice of Alan Lottner, the deceased realtor who took up residence in Ruddy's head. Ruddy is still working as a repo man, roaming the roads of northern Michigan tracking down the assorted deadbeats and forgetters who have let the payments lapse on their various vehicles.

He's engaged to Katie Alan's daughter and living in his house with her and his trusty (and generally put-upon) basset hound Jake. He's hanging out at the Black Bear, the bar he (kind of) co-owns with his sister Becky and her new husband Kermit.

But he's also dealing with court-appointed psychiatrist visits thanks to the muddy circumstances surrounding his previous escapades. And suddenly, it seems like all the progress that he has made is slowly slipping from his grasp, leaving him doing something he never thought he'd do missing Alan.

But when a young woman gives Ruddy a piece of information about the long-ago accident that derailed his once-promising life, he finds himself embroiled in yet another mystery. It turns out that his situation is not unique the disappearances of several other women might be somehow tied to the events of the fateful night that changed Ruddy's trajectory.

And Alan's back.

The two team up yet again to try and solve the mystery, take down a crooked banker, remove the stain from Ruddy's past, save his relationship with Katieand repossess some cars along the way.

Ruddy McCann is one of the more delightful literary characters to whom I have been introduced in recent years. Flawed heroes are the best heroes and Ruddy wears his flaws like a badge of honor. Sure, he grows and changes as his circumstances do, but his core his basic Ruddy-ness remains the same. He is charming, steadfast and loyal, with a fierce intelligence that he's more than happy to hide and a tremendous capacity for love that he's never quite certain how to show.

Oh, and he just happens to be hilarious.

It's hard to articulate the nuances of the Ruddy/Alan dynamic think something like 'The Odd Couple,' only if Felix was a voice in Oscar's head. But that relationship, while foundational, is just one of many that serve as the beating heart of this book. Don't get me wrong the narrative is compelling as all get out, but 'Repo Madness' is built on interpersonal relationships, just as its predecessor was.

Ruddy is at the story's center, but his friends and family orbit him tightly. The town of Kalkaska is populated with richly-realized eccentrics; there's a whole fleshed-out supporting cast that populates Ruddy's world. It's a vivid and slightly off-kilter community, capturing the unique character of a unique part of the country.

There's an undeniable spiritedness to Cameron's prose that is both emotionally engaging and wildly entertaining. 'Repo Madness' mixes humor and hubris with aplomb, creating something special. We can only hope that there's more to come from W. Bruce Cameron and Ruddy McCann.

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:39

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