Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book Review: The Baby Game by Randall Hicks

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Humor and logical twists
Cons: Small details; excessive flashbacks near the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Adoption myst'ry
Filled with great twists
So hard to put down

Who Knew Adoption Would Make for Such a Great Mystery

They say write what you know. Author Randall Hicks has taken that saying to heart in The Baby Game, his mystery debut. Randall is a nationally recognized expert on adoption who has written non-fiction books on the subject. With this book, he creates Toby Dillon, a young adoption lawyer who finds himself caught up in a simple adoption gone horribly wrong. And I am hooked.

Toby only partially grew up. Yes, he's an adoption lawyer, but he only does that part time. The other part of the time, he is the assistant tennis pro at the country club where he lives.

His latest adoption clients are really special to him. They are Hollywood power couple Brogan Barlow and Rita MacGilroy. But to Toby, they are his best friends. The three grew up together in a tiny town in northern San Diego county. So, naturally, Toby is anxious to help them.

Things go well, and the news of the adoption leads off a whirlwind press tour. Brogan and Rita invite Toby along, and it is looking like his little office may soon become very busy.

Then comes a phone call with a shocking revelation for Brogan and Rita. Naturally, they want to question the birth mother, but she has disappeared. What's really been going on?

Let's be clear, I loved this book. Between the humor and the twists, I couldn't put it down.

Having said that, the story starts a little slowly, with frequent pauses to give us some history on Toby. We do need to get to know him, but frequent flashbacks are a bit of a pet peeve. Once the story gets going, I could not put the book down, staying up late a couple nights in a row to read just a little further. The plot twists and turns all over the place, yet I found every twist logical and believable.

And the characters were real. Toby, Brogan, and Rita felt like true friends by the end of the book. Even the background characters came alive for me, especially Toby's family. I hope we see more of them in future books.

And the book is funny. Toby narrates the events, and his jokes did much to keep me reading. While he might crack a joke at someone else, many of them are aimed at himself. I found the self-deprecating humor quite endearing. But don't think this is all fun and games. Things get very serious in the second half as the plot unfolds.

And the writing is polished. The author's previous writing experience obviously helped, because the story just flowed. I flew through the pages.

Unfortunately, a few things could have been a little clearer. I spent quite some time trying to decide just how old the main characters were. There was one scene where the characters ate breakfast twice. These were all minor issues that had nothing to do with the plot, but they did bother me.

Author Randall Hicks has created a new series that shows lots of promise in The Baby Game. I can't wait to visit Toby and company again.

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