Book Review: Pondering the lives people wish they were living in ‘Rage Against the Dying’

By Becky Masterman

Rage Against The DyingYou know you’re in the hands of a talented new crime writer when a seemingly run-of-the-mill prologue from the vantage point of a psychotic killer takes a sudden, delicious twist. And you’ll recognize a significant new genre protagonist with the first sentence of chapter one: “I’ve sometimes regretted the women I’ve been.” That’s how Becky Masterman introduces Brigid Quinn, making her instantly memorable and demanding readers pay attention.

Quinn, 59, has been several women over the course of her seasoned life: “daughter, sister, cop, tough broad, several kinds of whore, lover, ideal wife, heroine killer.” Also: retired FBI agent, stellar at her job but at a huge cost to her personal life. She is now feeling her way to contentment by taking care of her dogs and keeping her new husband in the dark about past demons. There’s one particular case that haunts Quinn, as these things tend to do, but she’s trying to get past it. Until someone unfamiliar confesses to the crime, a newer FBI investigator smells something fishy, and Quinn’s suddenly slipping into professional shoes that don’t fit like they used to.

The entire narrative of Rage Against The Dying subverts expectations. The long-ago actions of a killer give way to present-day horrors, but the violence, while blunt, never gets overly graphic. Quinn’s emotions are palpable and guide her every move but don’t overwhelm her professionalism and toughness. The twists are legion, the betrayals and surprises in plentiful supply, but Masterman keeps expert control of the plot as she puts character first. It’s not a question of hoping we’ll hear more from Masterman. It’s a given, and a demand.

Visit the Maclean’s Bookmarked blog for news and reviews on all things literary

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.