After a stakeout goes wrong, US Marshall Frannie Mullen quits her job. Shaken and full of self-blame, she discovers her felon father has escaped prison. He’s on a mission to finish what he started when he murdered their mother: kill Frannie and her fresh-out-of-rehab sister Mae. With the help of her sort of boyfriend Wyatt, childhood cop buddy Mari, and a Marshall friend called Sleeper, Frannie searches for her deadly daddy. But Frannie’s not the only one looking for former mob enforcer Patrick Mullen. He’s gone to war with his old organized crime associates who want to keep him from spilling secrets—no matter what the collateral damage.
Title: The Poor Boy’s Game | Author: Dennis TaFoya | Publisher: Minotaur Books | Pages: 336 | ISBN: 9781250019530 | Publication date: 29 April 2014 | Starred Review: Yes | Source: Purchased
The Poor Boy’s Game Review
I found the first chapter of The Poor Boy’s Game a bit hard to follow due to the large number of characters, some of whom are referred to by multiple names. While the bloated cast was a problematic issue for me for the entirety of the book, I’m glad I powered through, because the characters and the plot made the book a worthwhile read. To be fair, the plethora of characters, added to the mystery elements by providing plenty of red herrings, and TaFoya’s ability to infuse so many story people with unique personalities is nothing short of masterful.
Frannie makes the perfect protagonist. She’s self-aware enough to know that choosing a career in law enforcement kept her from ending up with a bunch of kids and an imprisoned baby daddy or two. Yet, she fails to see that her sister Mae with her self-destructive ways is more a mirror than she’d like to admit. Frannie’s destructiveness is directed outward rather than inward like Mae. She fights and pushes people away. She relies on Wyatt to pick her up when she goes on a bender, but doesn’t want to admit her feelings for him. The choice of unavailable intimate partners such as former felons and married coworkers reveals scars from her parents’ toxic relationship.
Still, people sense goodness in Frannie, from Wyatt, who’s a good guy despite his sketchy past,and Sleeper, who risks his career to support her. TaFoya constructed a number of strong women characters in Frannie’s sister-in-spirit Mari, ER nurse Khandi, tough-as-nails neighborhood gal Bertie, and Patrick’s pregnant accomplice Tina.
Full of characters with agency, the story barrels along, yet the well-drawn characters made me care about who was hurting and who was helping. I also appreciated the nods to art throughout,from the paintings done by Frannie’s dead mother to the Winslow Homer paintings at various locations as well as the strange street art, which adds surrealism to the mood and atmosphere. The Poor Boy’s Game satisfied the adrenaline junkie in me and provided plenty of resonance by creating an emotionally satisfying read.
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