Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Review: The Clouds Roll Away

The Clouds Roll Away is a novel that is kind of hard to describe. Written in the first person, it reminds me of the classic pulp fiction detective stories—Sam Spade, Mike Hammer. But the cynical detective is quite different from those characters. She's a fairly young woman, who happens to be a Christian—and a former debutante.

Raleigh Harmon has just returned to Richmond, VA after being assigned to work in Washington state due to a controversial case. Her boss is still unhappy with her, so she's walking on egg shells, trying to avoid trouble. Yet her current cases include a high-profile hate crime and participation in a drug task force. To complicate matters, she lives with her borderline mentally unstable mother, has trouble getting along with her atheist sister, and is being pursued by the high society ex-boyfriend whom she kind of wonders why she let get away.

Sibella Giorello has an incredible gift for telling a great story supported by thorough research. (Her acknowledgments reveal at least some of the extent of this.) She also does an amazing job of setting the scene—weaving sounds, smells, tastes, and other sensations right into the story line. I especially loved the way she had Raleigh briefly notice words to songs as she heard them in different places, wherever she went.

The book is a bit dark. Raleigh is cynical. She has been hurt—many times. And her job as an FBI agent has led her to see the most hardened kinds of lives. Yet she remembers her faith, reminds herself often of her God, and waits for the clouds to roll away.

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