On a scale of one to five stars, this is a six.
Heidi Cullinan has done a masterful job of capturing the thoughts and lives of of two young men with difficult-to-comprehend conditions. Emmet is an ultra-high-functioning autistic. His memory is near-eiditic, his skills in understanding the real issues involved in a problem are astounding. Unlike neurotypicals, he can't read faces or body language, nor pick up on cues to peoples' emotions. He feels emotions deeply, but does not show them in ways most people can understand. He uses multiple coping mechanisms to center himself in the real world, such as rocking back and forth, humming and flapping his hands and arms. "Normal" people are sure he is a retarded freak. Cullinan lets us peek inside Emmet's mind and read his thoughts. She captured the autistic thinking processes accurately and sympathetically. I was astounded.
Jeremey contends with major depression disorder and clinical anxiety. He isn't just sad or worried, because neither condition is sadness and worry on steroids. They control every aspect of his life. He is convinced he's fundamentally bad, broken, undeserving and hopeless, and lives in constant fear of being wrong and ridiculed. "Normal" people want him to 'snap out of it.' or 'try harder.' The unfortunate truth is that his brain wiring and chemistry bar him from ever snapping out of anything, and use trying harder to make things worse. Cullinan captures the thinking process of major depression and clinical anxiety far better than most, but that is merely a very difficult task. Unlike capturing the thinking processes of an autistic, which few neurotypicals other than psychiatrists or neuroscientists can even attempt.
The author develops the characters well. The book is appropriately paced, the plot easy to follow, the dialog accurate and easy to understand. Secondary characters are sketched, not painted, but that's OK. Otherwise they might interfere with appreciating her superb presentation of the main characters' thoughts.
Yes, the two men fall in love. A reader may choose to enjoy the love story, which is well worth doing for that purpose alone. Readers who recognize Cullinan's extraordinary grasp of the minds and thoughts of also-normal-but-very-different people will be rewarded many times over.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Finding Friendship, Volume One of the Finding Series, will be on free promotion June 2 and June 3, 2018. Gay Book Reviews awarded the book a four-star rating, and said “This book left me riling for more. So much so that I went ahead and read the rest of the series. Going to be honest, if you start this book be prepared to get the other two in the series …”
Friday, May 25, 2018
Stepping back from Harassing to do some rewrite. I’m happy with the plot and the characters, but it’s a mystery and there ought to be a lot more mysterious stuff going on. I’ve asked a couple of readers for help, and should be back in the saddle shortly.
Monday, April 23, 2018
Writing a mystery is a bit more difficult than it might seem. The story is easy; building the tension and dropping clues in the right places means a whole lot of rewriting.
As time is available, I’m working on Harassing, the sequel to Taunting. Homeless women are being abducted in Mississippi and Louisiana, too many to be a coincidence. The obvious conclusion is that there’s a sexual predator on the loose. The only problem with that is that the women are returned unharmed, with no signs of sexual assault.
Local law enforcement in the two states get together to go over the cases, and tap Buzz Bakersfield, local miscreant doing community service, to help with clerical work. Buzz starts connecting the dots, the first step in what becomes a nationwide investigation for who and why. There seems to be a lot more to this than meets the eye, but without knowing why women are being kidnapped, there’s no way to learn who is doing it. An analyst in the New Orleans FBI office proposes a far-fetched theory, which would have been ignored if someone hadn’t tried to kill him that night. The FBI halts everything until the source of the leak can be identified. Danny Flint and the High-Profile Crimes team keep going on their own, convinced that both the leak and the murder attempt were local.
They were right, but the only person who could identify the source of the hit order is killed in a gunfight. Kidnapping patterns change significantly, to include mass abduction raids on homeless encampments, and taking citizens off the street. Danny and his team put together patterns, clues and reasonable assumptions, most of which turn out to be correct. Still, nobody has answers to the big questions, and when a state senator is kidnapped, what had been a low-profile investigation becomes a national frenzy. What do the abductors want from these women, and what is their fate? Read and find out.