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"Somebody's Fool"|Reviewed by William Winkler

Richard Russo is a prolific wordsmith with 10 novels to his credit, as well as short story collections, screenplays, and a memoir. Russo’s most recent novel, “Somebody’s Fool,” is a sequel to his previous “Fool” novels, all set in the decaying small town of North Bath, New York.

“Somebody’s Fool” details three days in the life of Peter Sullivan, a North Bath native who teaches at the local liberal arts college. Sullivan was abandoned by his father, Donald “Sully” Sullivan, the focus of the first in the North Bath trilogy. Sullivan then gave up the care of two of his three sons to his wife after their divorce, and removed himself from their lives.

When Thomas, the middle of the three brothers, shows up unexpectedly in North Bath with a trunk full of gasoline cans and suspicious motives, his father hopes to rekindle a father-son relationship. The progress of this attempt is one of the novel’s threads.

Another story arc follows Douglas Raymer, former police chief of North Bath, whose job was eliminated when the town was subsumed by the adjacent, more affluent city of Schuler. Shortly after leaving office, Raymer is recruited to assist in the identification of a badly decomposed suicide victim found hanging in an abandoned hotel.

Russo deploys a large cast of characters and a handful of subplots, all woven tightly together in a manner that keeps the reader’s eye looking toward the next revelation. The characters are well defined. Russo skillfully adds subtle reminders as to their nature and their relationships lest the reader lose track.

At 450-plus pages, “Somebody’s Fool” is a mid-sized novel that becomes a quick read once Russo introduces all the characters and picks up the pace. Readers who enjoy relationship stories with more than a touch of suspense will find this book a fun summertime read.

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