First Line: "Just want to make sure I've got your name right."
LeAnne Hogan joined the army determined to work hard and make the military her life. She returned home from Afghanistan in a much-altered state of mind. Having lost an eye and suffering from a brain injury, she can't really remember the desert operation that almost killed her. Her mind is a jumbled mess of confusion and anger, and she's almost convinced herself that the desert op-gone-wrong was her fault-- even though no one will come right out and say so.
The only thing that makes her days bearable in the hospital is her friendship with her roommate, Marci. Marci seems to be dealing well with her amputation, but when she dies suddenly, LeAnne walks out of Walter Reed and starts out on a cross-country drive. Having only the vision in one eye, LeAnne's native land now looks unfamiliar, and her strength and stamina are failing her. When she arrives in Marci's hometown, she learns that Marci's eight-year-old daughter is missing. Just as she decides to make finding the little girl her priority, LeAnne is suddenly adopted by a huge stray dog. LeAnne doesn't even like dogs, but this one refuses to leave her, and somehow a bond forms between the two as they look for a lost little girl.
This is quite a departure from Spencer Quinn's Chet and Bernie mystery series. There is no gentle humor. There is no dog's point of view. No, in The Right Side, Spencer Quinn gives us edginess, uncertainty, and an extremely unpredictable hero with an equally unreadable dog.
LeAnne Hogan is a physical and psychological loose cannon. She's suffering from her injuries. She's suffering from PTSD. She's suffering from feelings of inadequacy and failure. She's not your usual choice for the hero of a book, and that's one of the things that makes The Right Side so good. You literally do not know which way LeAnne is going to jump from one scene to the next. Her anger is explosive and frightening, but Quinn portrays her in such a way that we instinctively know that she's a good person. We want her to get well. We want her to be safe and happy.
This woman needs help, but she's going to fight everyone who wants to give her that help every single step of the way. She even fiercely resists the dog, but this huge beast of unknown pedigree just ignores her. The dog is just as much a mystery as LeAnne, but you know this relationship will work because of one thing: the dog unerringly protects her blind side.
Quinn gives us two mysteries in The Right Side: one involving the missing child, and one that concerns what really happened to LeAnne in Afghanistan. Both are strong and grab your attention. Another mystery for me is... will Quinn write about LeAnne again? She's one of the best characters I've encountered in a long time, and I wouldn't mind reading more about her. But sometimes it's best to see just one adventure in a character's journey through life. Whatever the author does, I'm certainly glad I met LeAnne-- and I hope you'll decide to meet her, too.
The Right Side by Spencer Quinn
Atria Books © 2017
eBook, 336 pages
Source: Net Galley