I figured that, as it’s a whole new year and all, that it was time to pay a third visit to Lil Littlepage-Eller, Boris, and the rest of the free-form asylum also known as Crazy, VA. So far, the Lil & Boris series has been a nice series of comfort nibbles with inhabitants I’ve always described as well-characterized, from Sheriff Lil herself right down to the local drunk. I’ve now read three of these books, and Crazy’s and her cast of characters are starting to feel like the sort of familiar faces that make me, at least, want to sink right down into the book and lose myself for a few hours.
Most days, I think my life can’t be much more difficult than it is just because I’m me. I hate it when I’m wrong. –Lil, at location 30 in the Kindle version
This trip was engaging, entertaining, amusing, a little heartbreaking. But, at the same time, the read wasn’t quite what I expected.
Crazy Like a Fox opens with the kidnapping of our far-from-fearless heroine. Lil survives the attack with a slender assist from one of the kidnappers, and is retrieved by Punk and Tom and the rest of what passes for the county police force. Under other circumstances, I might complain about the woman needing to be rescued, but Lil did what she could with what she had and, frankly, if she hadn’t been found I doubt she would have survived. And then Boris would have gone ballistic and this would be a very different series — about a serial killer who also happens to be a cat.
In any event, I was relieved when the cavalry arrived. And even more so when it turned out Boris hadn’t been injured in the attack, though that immediately raised a red flag for me: How on earth had someone managed to get past Boris in order to grab Lil? We’re talking about the cat who caused the town drunk to need stitches when he accosted Lil, and that was relatively (as these things go) innocent.
As you might guess, the sad and unrealistic thing is that Lil’s life goes even further to hell after she comes home. Sheriff Rucker from the next town over, whom Lil describes thusly: “…think of an unfunny redneck joke, and add a badge.” (Location 474) While these books don’t fall into the common stereotype of making all small-town police incompetent, Rucker is probably depriving some village somewhere of its idiot.
I almost smiled. “Bless his heart” is, as far as I can tell, a sort of genteel Southern code phrase used to cover everything from “bless his heart” to “drop dead in flaming agony, pestilent vermin”. — Location 991
A little digression here, some personal commentary: normally, I chew through Crazy in a few hours — a day or so at most. This one, I started toward the end of last year and only through concerted effort did I finish it yesterday. Which has nothing to do with the writing, though I wondered when I picked it back up last week to finish it for this review. Yes, there were a few major personal events that happened at the end of last year, but nothing that would explain me delaying reading a comfort book. In fact, I should by all reasonable (to me) standards have been devouring this one, and I wasn’t.
I realized, as I chewed through the last few chapters in under an hour, that Hill is really exceptional at characterization. Things do not go back to normal for Lil once she’s back in town: she’s struggling with an inability to trust, for one thing, which only gets made worse when she starts narrowing down suspects. And, officially, she’s not even on the case — Sheriff Rucker is, and she knows he can’t be trusted.
My job is my Safe Place. My office is where I can rant, cuss, and re-arrange facts on a white board as much as I want, and no one will find it odd. Except…now it wasn’t safe. Nowhere was safe.
Nowhere was safe, but home at least meant some privacy. — Locations 1033 and 1036
So, while I wanted to know what happened, and I cared what happened to Lil, I was empathizing, not just sympathizing, with where she was, emotionally. And it doesn’t help Lil that Crazy’s a small town.
In a town of three hundred, rumors don’t spread. They occur, like lightning, and at about the same speed. — Location 1276
But, after talking with both the Littlepages — well, the remaining Littlepage, other than herself and she’ll tell you she doesn’t count — and the Ellers, and discovering there is a whole lotta conspiracy and evildoing going on, Lil resolves the case with help from those she can trust. Although…
I hate when you see some show or novel or movie where every loose end is tied up in a pretty little bow. In real life, you get loose ends all over the place.
And in Crazy, as in real life, there are always loose ends.