I’m a personal injury lawyer. When most people realize this, they think my work is exciting, that I’m always in court rooms making speeches like in a John Grisham book. I used to tell them that it’s not true, that mainly I sit at my desk all day and make phone calls and type standard legal documents while asking my paralegal to look up some statute I’ve managed to forget, but they never believed me. Now I just let them believe what they want to believe.
To combat the dreariness of my job, I watch a lot of action movies, especially ones with Sylvester Stallone (hey, don’t blame me, I went to college in the ‘80s), and read a lot of detective thrillers, especially on airplanes. James Patterson has always been my favorite; you know you’re addicted to a story when you bring it into the dugout of your Saturday softball game and almost miss your at-bat (I struck out, anyway). I don’t want to say I’m obsessed with James Patterson, but I did read every single one of his novels. Literally all of them. There are none left for me to read, until he writes another one. Can’t he hurry up?
Well, now I’m waiting for Jonathan Bobbins to hurry up. I just finished Ring of Rainbow. It is hands-down the best thriller I have ever read. The thing that’s so super about it is not just that there are twists in the book but twists in every single chapter. The cliffhangers aren’t really cliffhangers like in a James Patterson or Dan Brown book. In those books, it’s always about a hit man in a phone booth or a sniper camping out on a rooftop, getting his neck snapped from behind while his killer’s face is always covered by a scarf rustling in the wind (and then the chapter ends and the next scene is at a breakfast table halfway across the world, with a different set of characters). The stories are always pretty typical, but the thing is that the bastards make you want to read more just to see if you can figure out who the guy in the scarf is.
Ring of Rainbow is nothing like that. I never felt like Bobbins was intentionally leading me to a place I didn’t necessarily want to go to for the sake of making me read more. I think this is why I liked it so much. It starts off in a weird way, with a chipmunk following a guy walking through an amusement park. It’s so eerie, though, this scene, and the guy with his coat blowing in the wind, that you don’t want to put it down, no matter how absurd it gets. So anyway, the funny thing is that you keep reading that the chipmunk is “on his tail,” but since you are experiencing the amusement park from the perspective of the chipmunk (it reminded me of the beginning of Men in Black), you don’t know if “on his tail” is referring to the guy or if the chipmunk is being self-conscious. I don’t want to give anything away, but I have to at least mention that the scene involves a blood-stained carousel . . .
The rest of the book is about the guy that the chipmunk is following; he turns out to be a jester named Jester, on his quest to find out whether his wife was murdered in cold blood or in a government cover-up. Most of the time, we are learning about Jester and the way he interacts with the people he meets in small towns across the country (the chipmunk weaves in and out of the plot, but to tell you how would ruin everything—just buy the damn book!). There’s a tent scene in the Utah desert, and a shoot-‘em-out scene in a saloon in Montana, but my favorite is when Jester has a long conversation with the head of an IT company in Detroit. There is a lot of tension because he’s simultaneously getting to the bottom of a mystery and having flashbacks to when his wife left him. My favorite line is, “His head snapping back, reminded him of the water well of his childhood, the well with the water rising to his level of severe irritation—and then he snapped.” It was the turning point of the book and the moment when I more than ever felt like I had this incredible connection to the character. That’s what this thriller did more than any other—it took me so deep inside the characters’ heads that I forgot where I was and what I was doing, and when I was done, all I could think about was reading another Jonathan Bobbins book.
It’s funny, I wasn’t even supposed to get the book, it was an accident. For Christmas/Hanukah (we celebrate both because our kids like more presents instead of less presents), my wife put a book in my stocking, and when I pulled it out, I was confused. She knew I liked Tom Clancy novels, like The Sum of All Fears, and she thought she was getting me Rainbow Six. I wasn’t exactly upset, just a little disappointed. And when I read the back cover, I was a little bit more disappointed. Jonathan Bobbins was apparently some literary guy. I’ve never been into intellectual literature—even though in college I read Oliver Twist and in high school I read The Great Gatsby a few times; I also like The Old Man and the Sea, but that’s because I’m a baseball guy—but then I read the first paragraph and I couldn’t stop. You don’t have to be a literary type to like Ring of Rainbow. You just have to like life.