Dontcha just love scene stealers? That person or critter that outshines the rest of the cast, especially unexpectedly? You know. Like me?
All modesty aside, Mom and I have been keeping a running tally of literary scene stealers in recently read books.
Some of the books they appear in are great. Some are awful. Not a main character, a scene stealer outshines everyone else, including a bad script.
Here’s a brief list of our top 6 scene stealers from recently read historical non-fiction and fiction fiction (that’s not a typo). A brief synopsis of each book is included:
1. The Blood of Gods: A Novel of Rome (Delacorte Press, 2013)
By Conn Iggulden
Setting: Ancient Rome
Octavian, adopted son and chosen heir of Julius Caesar, forms an uneasy alliance to avenge the assassination of Caesar and reunite all that Caesar’s fall has torn apart. There’s also the matter of justice for Caesar’s killers, including the famed general Marcus Brutus and a powerful cohort of traitorous senators.
High adventure and historical detail mixed with generous doses of greed, graft, corruption, cunning, and courage ensue as Rome’s destiny hangs in the balance.
Irascible but loyal Maecenas, Octavian’s comrade-in-arms.
2. The Forbidden Garden: A Novel (Harper Collins, 2017)
By Ellen Herrick
Setting: England, present and past
Newly arrived from America, “little gardener” Sorrel Sparrow joins forces with a lovelorn parish priest recently loosed from the local looney bin. They dig up the menacing secret of a long-dead Shakespearean garden and set it to rights, in between rolls in the hay and potty-mouthed rants from the relatives. “Game on,” my trowel!
Shambolic and obtuse, this ridiculous soap opera de snail makes The Flintstones look snappy.
Wags the dog. The only character with even a wisp of common sense.
3. The Guardians (Doubleday/Penguin Random House, 2019)
By John Grisham
Setting: Mostly Florida, present day
A young black man and former client of a Florida lawyer is fingered for the murder when counsel is found dead in his office. Quincy Miller has spent 22 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s steadfastly maintained his innocence. But no one’s listening. Until Miller writes a letter to Guardian Ministries, a small nonprofit run by Cullen Post. He’s an “innocence lawyer” and an Episcopal minister.
In taking on Miller’s case, Post gets more than he bargained for. Much more. An electrifying ride through not only a “perfect crime,” but also the criminal justice system.
Frankie Tatum, ex-con and Post’s investigator extraordinaire.
By Ellyn Oaksmith
Chick Lit/Gentle Romance
Setting: Chelan, Washington, present day
Lola Alvarez has a dream. She wants to “make her mark on the family business” and step out of the shadow of her older sister, Carmen. Lola wants to add tiny cabins to the family’s Blue Hills Winery and restaurant. Throw true love into the mix, an insufferable restaurant chef, a tangled past, and a complicated love triangle in which current and former flames butt heads, aaaand we’re off!
Daisy, Lola’s faithful Australian Shepherd mix. Kimber’s new best bud!
5. The Wonder: A Novel (Little, Brown and Company, 2016)
By Emma Donoghue
Setting: The Irish Midlands, 1859.
A young widow who served as a nurse in the Crimea with Florence Nightingale is hired to watch a little girl for two weeks.
A devout Catholic, eleven year-old Anna O’Donnell (aka: “The Wonder”) has stopped eating. For four months. She says she’s been kept alive by “manna from heaven.” A skeptic and a lapsed Protestant, Elizabeth “Lib” is hired to determine if the child has truly stopped eating altogether, as her family claims, or if she is surreptitiously scrounging food to keep herself alive.
Hoax? Miracle? Or is something more sinister in play?
A taut psychological thriller.
William Byrne, reporter for The Dublin Times.
6. Warcross (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017)
By Marie Lu
The Matrix meets Minority Report in this complicated sci-fi thriller when the line between real and virtual world becomes razor-thin.
New York teen hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter to make ends meet. About to get kicked out of her apartment for non-payment of rent, Emika tries to make some quick cash by hacking into the international Warcross Championships. She winds up glitching herself and becoming an overnight sensation.
The game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka, recruits her as a spy. He wants her to uncover a security problem. But Emika soon discovers something much more sinister, with major consequences for the Warcross empire.
If you’re into virtual gaming, you’ll probably enjoy this. Otherwise, don’t waste your time. (Okay, Mom. You can stop snoring now.)
Koa the Pembroke Welsh corgi. Kimber’s other new best bud!
Who’s your favorite literary “scene stealer”?
Scene stealer image credit: An Auusie Goes to Hollywood