I met Andrew McRae, the author of Murder Misdirected, in the cafe of a local bookstore. In our brief conversation, we each discovered that the other is also a published author.
A few weeks later, I ran into him again. He mentioned that he bought my book, and that he and his sweetheart loved it. At that point, I felt like it would be courteous for me to buy and read his, too. I was somewhat reluctant, because most books are not very good, and that can lead to uncomfortable conversations.
McRae’s Murder Misdirected pleasantly surprised me. It wasn’t bad at all. I quite enjoyed it. Here’s a brief review:
A decade or more ago, my family and friends were all quite taken with a show called The Sopranos. They wanted me to watch episodes with them, and I ended up seeing quite a bit of the show, despite the fact that I didn’t like it. I didn’t like The Sopranos for several reasons, but one issue in particular was most problematic for me. Every single major character on the show was a scumbag. Because of this, I had no empathy for the characters. Thus, I didn’t care what happened to them. I was unable to engage myself in whether they would live or die, or anything else about their stories.
I mention this because the main character of Murder Misdirected is a pickpocket. There’s a risk that such a character will leave readers cold, similarly to the way I was apathetic toward the trials and tribulations of Tony Soprano and his companions. McRae deftly handles that potential issue. He makes you believe that Kid, the main character of the book, has made some bad choices, but is fundamentally good-hearted. He leaves you eager to find out whether Kid manages to shape up. One of the great themes of literature is growth of character, and Murder Misdirected at least touches upon that theme. From this perspective, it’s possible to emotionally invest in Kid, despite his shortcomings. After all, if a character is going to grow, he has to start somewhere lesser.
The plot was handled fairly well. It wasn’t intricate, but it was tight. My only real criticism here is that I was able to predict some of the major plot points. I’m not sure whether most other readers will, too. In any case, I enjoyed the book despite predicting where things were going.
Throughout the course of the story, we’re given enough details about the ways of a pickpocket, and about life on the seedier side of San Francisco, to be satisfying. Murder Misdirected somehow had a bit of a cozy and charming feel to it, despite the murder and mayhem.
This is a pretty strong debut novel. If you enjoy crime novels where you have to figure out who’s the bad guy and where the treasure’s hidden, I imagine you’ll enjoy this one.