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Quarry Steps Up: A Book Review
A New Hero
Quarry Steps Up, a first novel by up and coming North Carolina writer, RJ McCarthy, combines the traits of crime-fighting action heroes with the reformed characters in a typical Hallmark movie. Readers will root for this new leading man as he seeks to start a new life following a five-year stint in prison.
The plot of Quarry Steps Up centers around Tony Quarry’s efforts to use the things he learned in prison to bring balance to his life. He sets himself up as peacemaker on his job, showing his compassion for his co-workers who periodically “forget” that if they fight, all parties involved will be fired immediately. This behavior serves Quarry well when he helps young Dalton Tumbrell who is being manhandled by a co-worker. Dalton’s father repays Quarry for his help by selling him a huge ranch where Quarry finds solace in the wide-open space-- a major contrast to the confined quarters of his prison life. Readers experience his compassion again when Quarry finds a run-away illegal immigrant hiding behind his barn, defends him against those who would abuse him, and eventually becomes his foster parent. His taking the young boy in begins the major conflict of the novel.
When Earl Tumbrell sells his farm to Tony Quarry instead of Jimmy-Jim Granderson, the town’s biggest landowner and self-appointed town leader, Granderson takes offense and sets out to let Quarry know he has overstepped his “place.” Not intimidated by Granderson’s pomp, Tony stands his ground and goes on with his life, only to find himself at odds with Granderson once more when Primo, the young illegal, shows up behind Tony’s barn. Primo had been a working for Granderson who thought his farm manager was Primo’s father. He takes the Department of Social Services to court to get the boy returned to Tercero, but after it is revealed that Tercero is not Primo's father or uncle, the court sides with DSS and gives Quarry temporary guardianship. This conflict escalates when Tercero hires two thugs from nearby Durham, NC to steal the boy, regardless of what they have to do to Tony. Every other conflict is some way tied to the Quarry-Granderson conflict.
The Novel's Strength
The beauty of this story is its characterization. Those characters who are introduced as mean are very mean. But, some grow and change, showing readers the redemptive nature of good works and love. Those who are introduced as good are open to differences and willing to serve. Thus, the reader senses that good things will happen for Tony Quarry since he has a good soul that is not tempted to be anything but that.
Who Will Love It?
Quarry Steps Up is a compelling story that might speak more to male readers. It includes a kidnapping, several fight scenes, arson, murder and a budding love interest.
To off-set the violence, there are several male characters who, like Tony, are peace loving and right thinking. Their coming to Tony’s aid confirms for him that he is doing the right thing as he seeks to establish himself as a man of honor. The language lends itself to older readers since some characters speak in stereotypes about other cultures, and McCarthy infuses the text with Spanish words (which he interprets) and sprinkles in a few derogatory terms. Since Tony Quarry’s story only begins to unfold in Quarry Steps Up, readers can expect more Quarry mysteries to come from RJ McCarthy in the future.