The Odds

Every year the Mystery Writers of America announce their nominees for the Best Novel of the Year in the spring.  Every spring I gather the nominees together and pledge to read them all.

This year I have read:  two.  And that is because I had read one nominee before it ascended to that status.

The good news is the one I just read is The Odds by Kathleen George.  The story involves a homicide detective named Colleen Greer and her attraction to a bad boy named Nick Banks.  Nick manages to get himself involved in a drug related shooting and seeks refuge with some children who he finds himself attracted to in a fatherly way.  Then there are the four children, abandoned by their stepmother, who choose to live as if they can raise themselves and nurse Nick back to health.

For discussion purposes, the two themes are obvious:  the meaning of attraction and the search for normalcy.  Beyond that, the book raises many issues for a discussion.  Big questions like the believability of the kids, the role of drugs in our society, and the need for safe havens for our youth are all available for use. 

Nick believes that he does not make decisions but rather “things happen to me.”  The issue of responsibility is key to understanding many of the choices that these characters make. 

This is the fourth book by George to include some of the cops from this Pittsburgh area.  While I am not an advocate of using series fiction in crime fiction book discussion, leaders can feel free to use this one because it reads like a stand alone novel. 

The Odds did not win the Edgar.  Nor did the only other title I have read.  Now back to the list with four more to go.  Hopefully I will have them done before next year’s list is announced.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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