Fiction: Somebody’s Fool
by Richard Russo

Paul Newman played Donald “Sully” Sullivan opposite Jessica Tandy in the 1994 film Nobody’s Fool.

North Bath, the fictional upstate New York setting of Richard Russo’s “Fool” trilogy, seems to be finally and firmly on the skids in the brand-new novel Somebody’s Fool (Knopf).

The town is slated for annexation by a wealthier, more liberal neighbor, Schuyler Springs. Even the local police station is being shuttered, its longtime chief, Douglas Raymer, surplussed to make room for his Black ex-employee and sometime-girlfriend, Charice Bond, at the helm of the Schuyler PD. Yet there may still be need of Raymer’s experience, after an unidentified corpse is found inside a derelict hotel on the burg’s edge. Meanwhile, Peter Sullivan—the college professor son of Donald “Sully” Sullivan, who led the misfit casts of Russo’s previous books in this series, Nobody’s Fool (1993) and Everybody’s Fool (2016)—has stuck around after his father’s passing to renovate Sully’s Victorian home, intending thereafter to flee North Bath once and for all. But that plan, too, is interrupted when Peter’s estranged, derelict son Thomas arrives, compelling Peter to reconsider his own father’s faults and legacy.

Although subplots involving corrupt cops and domestic abuse make this a rather less comic novel than its two predecessors, Russo’s optimism about the ability of his characters to overcome past disadvantages substitutes heart for humor in ample supply. ◊

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