Finder: The Rescuers
After the societal digression of Mystery Date, The Rescuers returns more directly to the adventures of Jaeger, this time in a detective story.
His American Indian-like clan is camping on the grounds of an urban estate owned by a nouveau riche lord. On the evening of a large party, the baron’s baby son is stolen and later found dead. Obviously, there are echoes of the Lindbergh kidnapping, one of the defining stories of the twentieth century, but the tale has been refashioned by Carla Speed McNeil to play up the culture clash between the civilized and the aborigines.
A stodgy cop without detective skills, Jaeger’s opposite, asks him for assistance, but their two worldviews are so different they almost can’t communicate. There’s a huge difference between knowing the truth and wanting justice based on it, and following the law based on what you can prove. It’s all complicated by conflicting cultural rituals surrounding childbirth, Jaeger’s lack of legal status (and rights), and oddly intriguing details like a kudzu vine that grows TV screens.
Another subtext of the story is the barely hidden, sometimes violent hostility between male and female. The book opens with a scene that ends “If there are too many of anything, it’s the girls you have to kill.” Jaeger is reintroduced showing a girl (who idolizes him a bit too much) why a banana-shaped knife is considered a male weapon. (She had thought it looked like a crescent moon, a traditionally female symbol.)
The mother becomes a living ghost during the ordeal, tormented by her loss, while the father gives orders. He’s a practical man, hardened by a horrific childhood experience and used to losing those closest to him. They grieve differently and try not to blame each other. It’s not surprising that birth, an expression of love, can also drive hate. We often see it expressed these days in sitcom-style, the mother screaming in pain as she labors, “YOU did this to me!”, but there’s truth behind the joke. And still the risk of death for the woman giving birth.
McNeil’s art is moodier than ever, drawing night and its shadows with crayon texture. This is her most difficult and darkest book in art and especially mood, since crimes don’t have easy answers. Sometimes all that’s left is how those affected have been reshaped.