CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 36. . . .May 20, 2011
Victim Rights. (A Ryan Dooley Mystery).
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010.
290 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Mystery and detective stories.
Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.
Review by Darleen Golke.
“It’s what they ask, Ryan,” his uncle said. She told them she’d tossed everything – couldn’t stand having the stuff around. By the time anyone could look, the clothes were down in a landfill somewhere. She insisted she was raped. They take date-rape seriously, Ryan. They arrested the Albright kid. He admitted having sex with her.” Did he have to keep hearing about it? “But he insisted it was consensual.”
Beth had been making eyes at Parker all week. She never called Dooley. She never returned a single one of his calls. She went upstairs with him. She held his hand.
“He made bail, no sweat. Apparently the father’s connected – not to mention loaded. You’d have to be to have a place with a couple of guesthouses. A kid like that can afford a hell of an attorney.”
“You done?” Dooley stood up to signal that he sure as hell was.
“Have you talked to her?”
He stared at his uncle and nodded.
“What did she say?”
“That she went upstairs with the guy.”
“That’s it?” his uncle said, surprised.
“She said she told him no.”
His uncle looked at him, like, now he got it.
“And you’re not sure you believe her? Well, I’ll tell you something, Ryan. A girl doesn’t lock herself in the shower for hours after she’s had consensual sex with a guy, and she sure as hell doesn’t take another dozen or so showers over the next couple of days. Showering like that, over and over, that’s something a girl does to get herself clean after she’s been raped by some guy. It’s what she does to get his smell and his touch off her. To make herself feel clean again. You get what I’m saying?”
Dooley couldn’t believe what happened next. He smashed his fists down on the table, making his uncle’s beer bottle jump. He smashed them down again and again until he felt his uncle’s hands on his shoulders and his uncle telling him softly, “It’s okay, it’s okay,” while he, Dooley, did what he’d never once done before in his life – he wept like a baby in front of another person.
In Victim Rights, the third novel in the "Ryan Dooley Mystery" series, Ryan Dooley, who prefers being called Dooley, returns to face new challenges as he continues struggling to put his troubled past behind and, with the help of his uncle (whom he learned in Homicide Related (2009) is not really his uncle) build a future. Dooley hates being under constant observation, hates waiting, hates school, and hates working at the video store, but is determined to succeed. The one positive feature of his life is his relationship with Beth; however, lately she has been busy and distant. Beth joins a group from her school to volunteer at a camp up north “doing manual labor” for a week, but when she returns “she isn’t seeing anyone, she isn’t talking to anyone.” When she finally does meet with Dooley, she reveals that Parker, one of the boys at the camp, raped her. Dooley already has heard from a couple of students that Beth and the alleged rapist had been hanging out together, and so he is somewhat skeptical and poses some questions causing Beth, already under enormous strain, to bolt after telling Dooley she filed a report with the police. A few days later, the rapist is murdered, Beth attempts suicide, and she confesses to the police she is guilty of murder after enigmatically telling Dooley that she saw what he did in the ravine the night of the murder, that she will protect him, and she loves him. Only later does Dooley understand that Beth actually witnessed the murder, assumed it was he who committed it, and has decided to confess using enough detail about the "when, why and how” to satisfy police. Detective Randall, whom Dooley has encountered too often before, doubts petite Beth could have actually killed Parker, herself, and suspects Dooley to be an accomplice.
Dooley has his own secrets about the night, but he knows he certainly did not commit murder and flatly refuses to believe that Beth could have done so. Nevertheless, given his past brushes with the law, he again endures questioning by his least favorite detective who knows he spoke with Parker. Realizing he knows too little about the situation, Dooley investigates. He talks with students who were on the week’s work camp. He contacts Beth’s snobbish classmates from her posh private school where he fortunately meets Cassie, a scholarship student from the “real world,” who assists in introducing him to several girls who provide information that ultimately helps him solve the mystery and bring the killer to justice. In his own unique way, Dooley’s tough-as-nails, ex-cop uncle solidly lends his supports throughout. Dooley admits “it mattered to him what his uncle thought. The past couple of months, when things had been going smoothly with both Beth and his uncle, had been the best months of Dooley’s life.” When he came home, he could count on “a greeting instead of a ‘Get lost’”, good food, a comfortable home, and “someone who actually listened.” In the end, Dooley feels he must admit to his own activities the night of the murder first to his uncle, then to Randall who fortunately gives Dooley a break cautioning, “Do me a favor – don’t figure in any of my investigations ever again.”
Structurally, the novel opens with Dooley returning home with blood spatters on his clothes, admitting he is “pretty sure the guy wasn’t going to lay a complaint,” and musing that “actions have consequences.” That somewhat ambiguous opening sequence does not resume until the fifth chapter which just happens to be the day Parker’s body is found and Beth tries to commit suicide. Consequently, the reader must sort out the significance of the mysterious introduction as the action proceeds and somewhat confusingly only receives clarification in the final chapter.
Five-time Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award winner, McClintock excels at creating unique characters, and Dooley is one of her best – intelligent, complex, insightful, loyal, yet often frustrated and angry. Always on the cusp of doing something that might propel him back into chaos, Dooley straddles the edge as he tries to do the “right thing” and stay straight. McClintock’s using third person narrative allows the author to share Dooley’s reasoning process with the reader while maintaining authorial control and controlling the pace of action. Targeting the novel at older teens, McClintock deals sensitively with serious issues, among them sexual assault (rape), sexual predators, pedophiles, date-rape, and suicide. As Dooley interacts with the young people from the economically privileged social strata, he observes a sense of entitlement and a disregard for others that rankles, but he doggedly pursues his questioning in spite of the obvious disdain. His reputation as a “criminal” actually seems to make him fascinating to some of the competitive girls and a challenge to some of the guys Readers encounter familiar secondary characters as well as new entrants from privileged and ethnic social strata. A characteristic McClintock mystery, the complex, multi-layered plot engages readers, the writing is well-paced and crisp, the realistic dialogue flows smoothly, and the characters are appealing, albeit all too human. Victim Rights focuses more on character and relationships than action as did the first two Dooley novels. Although the spotlight centres on Dooley, Beth’s struggles also receive attention, and for both characters emotions run high as they sort through the challenges and strengthen their commitment. A remarkable amount of murder and mayhem appear to surround Dooley during the 10-month time frame the series covers, but fans who appreciate appealing yet flawed characters will be sorry if this is, indeed, McClintock’s final volume in the Dooley series.
Darleen Golke, a retired teacher-librarian, writes from her home in Abbotsford, BC.
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