Saturday, July 30, 2011

235 (2011 #40). The Ringer

This book has an interesting premise.  Ed O'Fallon is just a Denver cop doing his job.  In the confusion of a no-knock drug raid at the wrong address, he kills a Mexican immigrant, Salvador, estranged from his wife and family.  Ed's sons, Jesse and E. J., play on an elite baseball team.  Salvador's son Ray, using his Mexican-American mother Patricia Maestas' maiden name, is a hot pitcher on another team in the league. He ultimately winds up as a "ringer" (a person who is highly proficient at a particular skill or sport and is brought in to supplement a team or group of people) on Ed's boys' team, the city champions, in the state tournament.  Gradually all these people realize who the others are.

The story is told from the points of view of Ed and Patricia.  Ed begins to doubt himself and is frustrated by the mandatory administrative leave.  Patricia has her own feelings of guilt, wondering if the separation she wanted (that she learns may have been unwarranted) might have led to Salvador's death.  She is pressured by her mother and Latino activists to sue the city of Denver.  All these themes and storylines are skillfully woven together.

The author does a masterful job making the reader understand and care about BOTH of these people and their families.  I loved the little touches, like Ed's trying to control his normal overenthusiastic coaching style while working with his young daughter Polly's T-ball team, his wife Claire always knowing where his misplaced items are, and Patricia's daughter Mia carrying around her John Elway doll, dubbed "El Johnway."  This made the characters more ordinary yet believable.

This book was a Top 100 semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2008.  You don't have to be a baseball or sports fan (I'm not) to understand or like this book (I did).

Author Jenny Shank grew up in Denver.  In the acknowledgments, the author indicates that this book was inspired by the shooting of Ismael Mena, a real-life botched no-knock drug raid death in Denver in 1999.  She's written numerous other pieces, including this review of Half-Broke Horses, but this is her first book. Well-written and well-paced, I'd definitely read another book by her.

© Amanda Pape - 2011

[I received an advance reader edition of this book from the publisher, Permanent Press, in exchange for a fair review.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

No comments:

Post a Comment