Stephan Jaramillo, The Scoundrel (Berkley Publishing Group, 1999)

Women, if you've ever wanted to look inside a man's mind for an hour or two or ten, and see just exactly what he's thinking ... this is the book for you.

Carl's not very happy. Despite his job at a small Italian restaurant that he absolutely loves (despite his assertations to the contrary), he just can't stop thinking about the girl who loved him and left him several months prior. He won't mention or think of HER name, is bombarded with those post-breakup memories of HER at every turn, and thinks of HER in all-caps.

As if this isn't bad enough, Carl has to deal with his best friend, a notorious womanizer and self-professed callous bastard, who has suddenly decided to settle down with a woman he met recently. This wouldn't be a problem really -- except that his friend likes to live vicariously through Carl, since Carl's still single.

Oy.

This all leads to a resolution. Carl decides that for the next year, he's going to forget about being a nice guy. He's going to forget about all the Glamour magazine articles about being a sensitive partner. He's going to stop trying to get emotionally involved. He's going to become a scoundrel.

Compared to Jaramillo's other books, The Scoundrel isn't in the same genre. Despite the same character-based action that he pulled off well in Going Postal, this story has a darker, and more real, feel to it. Instead of the offbeat and quirky friends being a distraction to the main character, in this story they are a near-annoyance to him. While he fights his feelings about what he's becoming, Carl's friends are the bad influence that send him into a greater conflict between his goal and his emotions. It's a deeper conflict than Jaramillo's other writing has explored.

In this book, the author shows his more evolved side, albeit in a ribald sort of manner. Far from being one-dimensional, the main character is a tormented soul, given life and humor by the talented Jaramillo. He also seems to have worked out the plot difficulties from the first book -- the ending of The Scoundrel is just as good as the first page.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]

Buy The Scoundrel from Amazon.com.