G. D. Gearino, Blue Hole (Simon and Schuster, 1999)
[originally posted 7Jan2002]
Gearino returns with his third novel about small-town life in Georgia, this one a mystery about a missing teenager, a Utopian commune, and a well-meaning high school boy who tries to connect the dots.
Charley Selkirk finds himself kicked out of high school and girlfriendless after defending a black football player with his own brand of off-the-cuff justice. Faced with a lifetime of nothing to do ahead of him, he hires on as temporary help for town photographer (and Gearino regular character) Tallassee Tynan. The two of them, while visiting one of Tynan’s subjects, are told the woman’s grandson is missing. Tynan wants to drop it; Selkirk (probably still staring that lifetime of nothing to do in the face) wants to investigate. He wins; complications ensue.
The plot gets stretched pretty thin in places in this book (having not read Gearino’s previous work, I’m not sure exactly how thin it is; some things that look like major coincidences here may have popped up in his two previous novels), but the plot should be taking second seat to the characters and descriptions in this one. Blue Hole is peopled with the kinds of characters one always hopes to find in real life, but never quite does—they look like stereotypes on the surface, but there’s a level beneath that makes them anything but. The good-ole-boy sheriff has a collection of oddities he’s come across during his time in office; the paranoid Vietnam vet may have very good reasons to be paranoid. Etc. When the book slips in place A, it’s always made up for in place B. That leads to inconsistency, but doesn’t make the book any less worth reading. *** ½