A crime novel that is funny and not only features a disabled character, but makes him the hero.
Plot: Daniel feels incredibly lucky. He has a stable job, enough money to make ends meet, close friends, and the relentless good weather of Georgia. He should also have been dead for a good decade or more, because he was diagnosed with type 2 spinal muscular atrophy as a baby, a degenerative illness that kills many of its victims before they even hit puberty, while he’s still around and causing havoc at the university football games on the wrong side of 25. His illness does mean that he spends a lot of his time at home, so he spends a lot of it out on his balcony, people watching. One early morning, he spots a college girl he’s seen before get stopped by a car and get in. It seemed unusual, but she went willingly, so he thought nothing of it. Until the news report two days later identified her as missing, and he might have been the very last person to see her. Shenanigans ensue.
Daniel is left to solve the mystery of a missing college girl after local law enforcement fail in spectacular fashion to find even a single lead, despite Daniel calling every department in the area trying to tell them he saw her the morning she disappeared. The mystery does ramp up at certain points, but you spend the bulk of your time just enjoying the company of Daniel and co. Based on some of the reviews on goodreads, if you really love your mysteries, you might find this book a little thin on that front. As a person who rarely enjoys mysteries and hates the vast majority of crime novels, I was very happy about this.
Daniel is fabulous. He’s smart and sarcastic and kind and fiercely independent. Daniel did not need to “overcome” his disability to be the hero, nor did becoming the hero somehow cure him. If his disability plays into the mystery at all, it’s in the way he’s channeled his struggles into a compassion superpower that urges him to help when he can, and the ability to connect with people who channeled their struggles into resentment instead. He is who he is and that is enough.
The people around him are wonderful as well. Travis, his best friend from childhood, has found a million different ways of being there for his friend in quiet ways, most importantly being that he treats him like a person rather than a condition. Marjani is his caregiver, but being an immigrant, she’s hustling at two other jobs at the same time. Even still, she takes care of not only Daniel’s needs but provides him with company and affection and takes great pride in being there for people like him. His mother, who we don’t see much of, is very much like Marjani, and probably why Daniel gets on so well with her. She is a strong woman who took the doctor’s diagnosis as a challenge, and dedicated herself wholly to ensure that Daniel not only survived into adulthood, but thrived as his own person. Indeed, it was why he moved away after college, both to gain some independence while it was an option, and also to help his mother dedicate more of her efforts to her own happiness.
Honestly, I was genuinely surprised when I realized that the author did not in fact have SMA or some other significant disability. I can’t think of any able bodied person I’ve ever met who could so fully inhabit a body with limitations without it becoming offensive in one way or another. Leitch clearly did his homework and the result is these beautiful characters.
TW: hospitals and medical care and genetic anomalies and medical emergencies, discussions of racism, incels, violence.