Saturday, February 24, 2018
Getting Somewhere, by Susan Isaacs
This is not an anthology of mystery stories. It is a collection of stories and art of various kinds brought together to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.
Susan Isaacs has written a lot of novels, including some pretty good crime fiction. Is this story crime fiction?
Well, yes and no. Otto Penzler famously described a mystery as a story in which crime or the threat of crime is a major element. That covers The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and I, The Jury, and Gone Girl, but it also includes The Brothers Karamazov, Macbeth, and Oedipus Rex. Most people instinctively reject those stories as being crime fiction. I don't know how to distinguish between those two kinds of stories exactly, but as the Supreme Court famously said about pornography, I know it when I see it.
So, what do I see here? The narrator is Karen, wife of a wealthy man, and she explains her encounter, in 2002, with a boatload of Haitian refugees on the Causeway outside Miami. What they are doing is a crime, and so is what she does, which makes this a crime story, although it doesn't feel like one to me.
Which doesn't mean it isn't a good story. It is.
What makes it special is the narrator's voice which is distinctive, amusing, and fascinating.
I was driving my car, a BMW convertible since that was around the time it became chic to be unpretentious.
Listen, I like Cubans and one of the women in my tennis group, Solana Diaz Ruiz, who for some reason didn't have a hyphen, was a total sweetheart and we had lunch once a week and knew all about each other's kids, and probably too much about our husbands.
[A] gift is a gift. Either you give with a full heart or you just say screw it and hand over a Saks gift certificate.
Whenever I drove, I made myself listen to NPR. It paid off. When I stopped at a traffic light, people int he other cars could think, Intellectual.
Intellectual? Maybe not so much. But she finds herself at a crisis point with a chance to make a difference and she knows that whatever she decides will change a lot of lives, including her own...