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Samaritan, by Richard Price

August 13, 2010 by Reader's Connection

I did a featured author post about Richard Price in 2008, but he has come back to haunt the blog again because I bought a used copy of his 2003 novel Samaritan while on vacation and couldn´t put it down to read anything for work.


Nerese Ammons and Ray Mitchell knew each other as kids in New Jersey. Nerese was known then as Tweetie, because she had a grandmother who couldn’t say “sweetie” quite right. Ray came to Nerese/Tweetie’s aid when she was hurt, way back when, and now, decades later, when Ray is beaten horribly, Nerese wants to pay him back. She’s a cop on the verge of retirement, and would like to capture Ray’s assailant.

Ray has been a TV writer in L.A., but now he’s back in New Jersey, teaching a high school writing class pro bono, reconnecting with his thirteen-year-old daughter, Ruby, and being generous with his saved-up money. Generosity is a good thing, but Price’s epigraph is from St Matthew– Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them–and that quote seems to have slipped Ray’s mind.

Now, after the attack, Ray isn’t cooperating with Nerese’s investigation, for reasons that elude Nerese and the reader until near the novel’s end. As usual with Price, the crime plot operates within a larger story, and the other components–Ray’s efforts at teaching his writing class, for example, or Nerese’s story about why she became a cop–were as exciting for me as any of the investigative stuff.

Price’s characters are forever telling stories. A couple of times in the book Ray tells his daughter a story, and her response is the same.

“So go on,” Ruby said.

“Go on where.” he turned to her.

“Tell me another one.”

I feel the same way.


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