Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book Review: Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock

Book: Dooley Takes the Fall
Author: Norah McClintock
Published: 2008

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Dooley (just Dooley, thanks) thinks he's doing all right, pulling his life together. He's got a (crappy) job, a place to stay, and he's even managing to make it to school regularly. All he's got to do is keep his nose clean, follow his uncle's rules, and graduate on time, and his juvie past will stay in the past.

But then he's the only witness to a seeming suicide. All at once, Dooley's back in the familiar mess of cops and suspicion. This time, he knows he's innocent, but the cops thinks otherwise. Every morsel of evidence that turns up seems to do two things--one, make it more likely that Mark Eversley's death was homicide, and two, blame it all on Dooley.

This was a pretty decent mystery (maybe the end was a little sudden), but the great strength of this novel was Dooley's voice. Cynical, tough, a few unexpected pockets of softness, and a certain maverick streak that could be frustrating but also appealing. McClintock makes it clear that the crime that sent him to juvie was no aberration, but the logical extension of his difficult past, replete with drug and alcohol problems as well as petty theft and occasional bursts of violence.

There was a plotline with Dooley's counselor that got dropped midway through, but I didn't miss it too much. I was more interested in the mystery and how Dooley was going to work his way out of it.

McClintock goes for, and succeeds at, a very hard-boiled feel with Dooley Takes the Fall. From Dooley's criminal past to his dispassionate assessments of the people around him and not always letting the reader in on the pertinent information until it hits the fan, Dooley reads like a young Sam Spade. This should appeal to older teens, especially those who are far from angels themselves.

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