Choosing a book for this month’s challenge, with the theme “Series Catch-Up,” made me think (again) about how my reading and buying habits have changed. I no longer have “must-buy” series, and I’ve gotten much better about compulsively buying multiple books in a series before even starting to read it. I’m resistant to starting series that are already long; it feels like a burden (perhaps that’s my reader mortality striking again). I’ve mostly let go of my completist tendencies; if I tire of a series, I stop reading. So I don’t actually have many series I feel “behind” on. Yay!
Being in a mystery mood, went with Code Runner, the second in Rosie Claverton’s Cardiff-set Amy Lane series, for the challenge. I really liked the first book, and this is a series I’d like to keep up with. It proved to be a great choice
Amy Lane is a former hacker turned police consultant, using her tech wizardry for good, and her assistant Jason Carr is an ex-con trying to turn his life around. Amy has an anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. She never leaves her house. Jason looks like a hard man but is really rather sweet. Her tech smarts and his street smarts make them a great crime-solving team. There seems to be a very slow romance developing, and rightly slow, because they both have problems that need solving first. But mostly they are friends who support and care about each other and complement each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. That relationship and their well-drawn characters are what I enjoy most in this series.
I would say this is a partnership and they get equal time in the narrative–in fact this book probably focuses more on Jason–but I like that the series is named for Amy and that she’s the boss. There’s no straightforward gender-flipping, but they also don’t fall into typical roles. Jason is the headstrong one who goes charging into trouble, so often a female role. He’s also more often the one who is physically vulnerable, since he’s the one who goes outside. He gets beaten up a lot. Amy watches over him–often quite literally, via his phone GPS or the CCTV networks she hacks into–and sends people to rescue him. Jason is more emotionally astute, or simply more willing to feel his feelings. Amy’s are so often overwhelming, because of her anxiety, that she’s learned to wall them off. She seems more vulnerable because of her mental illness, but in some ways she’s tougher. These complexities make the dynamics of their relationship fascinating reading.
My reading of Code Runner is a great example of reader-book alchemy. There are some of the same “tells” for their growing romantic relationship that annoyed me in A Curious Beginning, like unrecognized–and then admitted–jealousy, but because I like these two and find them interesting to read about, I shrugged at the cliché and moved on. Also, there weren’t too many moments that felt clichéd.
What’s that? You want to know about the mystery plot in this mystery novel? Well, it kept me turning the pages, especially the parts where Jason is in jail and in serious physical jeopardy. The mystery revolves around drug dealing and related murders (which was a refreshing change from the serial-killer-preying-on-women plot of Binary Witness, the previous book). It requires both Amy’s computer skills and Jason’s knowledge of Cardiff street gangs to solve. For a lot of the time, it’s not clear whom they can trust. I have no idea if the computer stuff is accurate–and some technical details are vague–but it feels plausible, and when I don’t know any better, that’s the standard I go with. Both Amy and Jason have to confront people from their pasts, so we learn a bit more about them.
A gripping, well-paced mystery, an engaging cast of characters, and a hint of romance: this is one of my very favorite kinds of pleasure reading. Book 3 in the series comes out on the 29th, but I will have to wait until after Easter to catch up again. In the meantime, I’ve started my runner-up for the Series Catch-Up theme, Emma Barry’s Private Politics. I decided I haven’t burned out on US politics after all.