If You Want a Good Read, Start at the County Line
In County Line, Bill Cameron gifts his readers with several complex, intriguing characters, some of whom actually make it to the last page of his latest NovelNoir. Ruby Jane Whittaker is a woman who seems to have it all together, and knows where she’s headed. Skin Kadash is a retired police officer who is in love with her.
When Skin takes a time-out and goes to the beach, Ruby disappears and none of her employees know where she’s gone. Skin decides to track her down and see if she needs help (who disappears voluntarily and leaves a cellphone behind?). He starts by visiting one of Ruby’s former lovers, Peter, and they form an unlikely partnership. Visiting Ruby’s brother doesn’t provide much information; after a brief meeting in a restaurant, he runs out and is killed by a hit-and-run driver.
On the road to Ruby, Skin and Pete take a few lumps themselves and are the target of another hit-and-run attempt. Why? Well, it’s all somehow related to the old dead guy in Ruby’s bathtub—while she was away, he broke into her apartment, ate her canned soup (without heating it), climbed into a nice warm (we’ll assume) tub, and croaked. He did that after making a little nest for himself which he befouled.
But the story also has roots in things that happened over 25 years ago in a dysfunctional family in which two kids are held hostage by two mentally ill (to be kind) adults. As Skin searches for Ruby, Cameron takes us back in time to Ruby’s very dark teenage years.
County Line is a thoroughly enjoyable read; Cameron spins a fine web of a story that builds upon itself, revealing secrets and twisting in unexpected directions. Ruby is an exciting, but remote, character—the more one reads about her, the more one wants to know (the more one knows, the more there is to learn). Classic noir storytelling and unforgettable characters combine, making County Line very difficult to put down.