You might not think that the subject of solid waste management would lend itself to a murder mystery. It would seem to be a stretch, wouldn’t it?
Although Wasted: Murder in the Recycle Berkeley Yard by John Byrne Barry is packaged as just that, it might be fairer to characterize it as a novel about corporate crime. There’s a murder in the novel, and a mystery to be solved, but it’s a long time coming in the plot, which is concerned much more with the relationship between the homegrown “Recycle Berkeley” collective and a massive international corporation called Consolidated Scavenger, which is clearly a stand-in for Waste Management.
The plot of Wasted revolves around a set of characters suitable for a soap opera, Berkeley-style. Barb has recently left her crazy lover, Doug, after nearly a decade. Brian, having been obsessively in love with her all that time, has just broken up with his wife, Eileen, and is now sleeping in his office. Doug may be Brian’s best friend, though that’s hard to understand, as Doug appears to be both insane and abusive and has no friends at all.
At the center of this (triangle? rectangle?) lies Recycle Berkeley, known to one and all as Re-Be, the
Adding tension and urgency to the tale is the imminent end of Re-Be’s contract with the City. At the same time, City Council elections are approaching, and one Councilmember is determined to oust Re-Be and steer the contract instead to Consolidated Scavenger. Re-Be is backing her challenger, a member of the leftist political party that will gain a majority on the Council if she is elected.
Does all this sound like Berkeley to you? I’ve lived here for nearly half a century, and I must say it does to me.
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Wasted: A novel set in Berkeley’s recycling world (10.21.15)
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