There is no sub-genre within the mystery genre that could classify this book, and I mean that as a compliment. Pot thief and pottery shop owner Hubie Schuze is so unlike any other protagonist in a mystery series, I can’t compare this to other books and say “it’s like X.” It’s not.
So what is it like? Albuquerque.
Hubie would probably cringe at the phrase “Keep Albu quirky,” but it’s not a bad way to introduce him and his way of looking at the world and loving his city. Orenduff has a knack for describing people with a few clear images that pick out their defining peculiarities, positive or just plain odd, and this seems to be integral to Hubie’s point of view. He sees people as they are—and sees himself as he is, too, with humor and humility despite some strong opinions. His delightful digressions are as essential to the flavor of the book as seasonings are to a good meal. One of his rambles is on the benefits and pleasures of walking in the city compared to driving, and it fit with the way I felt while reading. I had such fun being in the moment with Hubie and his friends that I forgot to try to figure out whodunit.
Hubie figures it out, of course, and the end is surprising—I wouldn’t have seen that coming even if I had been trying to solve the crime. Don’t let my drifting with the Tao of Hubie make you think this book is unstructured. It isn’t. Multiple intriguing subplots—adventures sometimes humorous and sometimes just human—are interwoven with the mystery plot.
Hubie’s capacity for friendship and generosity is on equal footing with his inclination to break a few laws. It’s this combination of rogue and good guy that makes him so engaging. The acts of kindness and minor crimes Hubie commits while solving the big ones kept me looking at the scenery, walking, appreciating every step of the way.