"Everybody's Somebody's Fool" by Ed Gorman (Carroll and Graf, 2002)

Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, the fifth book in Ed Gorman’s Sam McCain series, is one of my favorites. It’s got one of the best mysteries—a young hotrod racer is accused of murdering the daughter of one of Black River Falls’ most elite families—as well as some of the most moving and tragic love stories. Even though he’s never fully gotten over being rejected by Pamela Forrest, or the pain he caused Mary Travers, Sam has tried to move on. In Save the Last Dance For Me, he started a relationship with a married journalist. Now, he’s seeing Linda Dennehy, a recently divorced nurse and cancer survivor. This is no easy lovey-dovey affair, and Linda’s scars are more than just skin-deep. Gorman gives real depth and pain to their love—Sam struggles to learn that there is more than just affection and commitment to love, while Linda has to wrap her young mind around a whole new vision of her life, her body, and her future.

As the McCain series progresses and Sam himself gets older, there’s an increasing sense of mortality to the books. Wounds from previous stories still linger, and not all things heal with time. It is interesting to compare the parallels between the mystery plot and the love story in Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool. Both are filled with bodily pain, torture, and death—on the one hand, you have the snake ritual, numerous fights, and even murders, and on the other you have Linda’s cancer, which eats away at her from the inside out, the surgery which mutates her body, and the knowledge that it will eventually take her life. Gorman is never one to take suffering lightly, and while the Muldaur-scenario is certainly thrilling, it is Linda’s story that is the most haunting, as well as frighteningly realistic. Gorman reminds us that the biggest mysteries in life aren’t about who killed who, but deeper questions about our own daily lives and loves, and that there are scarier things out there than people with guns.

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"Test Tube Baby" by Sam Fuller (1936)

Test Tube Baby is the second novel from Samuel Fuller (here credited as “Sam Fuller”). Published in 1936 by Godwin, Publishers, it is among...