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The Odds    by Kathleen George order for
by Kathleen George
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2009 (2009)

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I confess to a certain subjective partiality to Kathleen George's new novel simply because of settings. With the action of The Odds located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I enjoyed reading about hometown locales (though it is also worth noting that I have not lived in Pittsburgh for nearly forty years). In any event, with my vicarious homecoming adventures set aside, George's highly recommended novel earns high praise for narrative style, plotting, characterizations, and themes.

Here is the premise: You have various characters whose backgrounds, personalities, and circumstances are widely different. Meg Philips is an eighth-grader who suddenly finds herself responsible for three siblings (seventh-grader Joel, fifth grader-Laurie, and second-grader Susannah) when their self-centered stepmother abruptly abandons them; a young fellow known as Carl to everyone (but running away from another identity) has a problem with drug addiction but is determined to kick the habit without any help from anyone; Nick Banks has been working at a neighborhood pizza shop but discovers his long association with his employer and his spotty past are about to cause serious problems for himself and quite a few other people; and Northside homicide detectives Colleen Greer (thirty-nine and unmarried), John Potocki (disoriented by his estranged wife's preference for another man), and Richard Christie (dealing with leukemia and chemotherapy) have all they can handle when the investigation into the death of a drug dealer runs afoul of a narcotics detective's investigation. Then, against all odds, these diverse characters' lives intersect, and each person - attempting to make the best of difficult circumstances - will find his or her life profoundly altered by that intersection.

The bottom line, though, is this: The Odds demonstrates that the author is more than ready for prime-time in the fiercely competitive world of mystery thrillers. Provocative and engaging, this compelling character study is enriched by gripping tension and intriguing themes. As for myself, I look forward to reading more from Kathleen George (a theater professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and a resident of the city's historical Northside), and I would not mind experiencing more exciting adventures set in Pittsburgh's fascinating neighborhoods.

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