“This is what it must be like to go insane. Black sky. Flashes of brilliant white. Ear-shattering cracks of thunder. A roaring motor. And the voices. The voices that shout your name. That shout nonsense. The voices that keep shouting long after you’ve tried to stop hearing them.” – Loc 3179-3181
Neil Armstrong (may he rest in peace) once said:
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”
On the record…I’m not an idiot. I am well aware Mr. Armstrong’s rather genius quote had little to do with murder (more to do with space travel) but let us not forget how I like to misconstrue quotes for my own personal use.
In this particular case: Mystery.
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE mystery novels. The intrigue. The deception. Random bodies hanging from a ceiling fan. There is just something about them that gets my adrenaline pumping. (Which I just realized makes me sound like a complete psycho. So forget that I said that.) The more tangled the plot, the better they are. And my desire to understand (see how I did that?) goes into overdrive. As was the case for Dani Amore’s novel “Dead Wood.”
“In the exclusive enclave of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a woman who builds custom guitars is murdered. A disgraced ex-cop turned private investigator is hired by the dead woman’s father and immediately becomes the target of a violent ex-convict. An enigmatic music star performs damage control on her links to the dead woman. And a professional killer who idolizes Keith Richards is brought into town by a mysterious employer.”
Now…while I would love to perch myself upon a marble pedestal and wax poetic about the brilliance that is “Dead Wood” I did have a few issues with it, so let’s talk about them first. (Better to end on a positive note right?)
Villains are the piece de resistance of mystery novels, and (because of this) can make or break plot. Without them the story is….well, moot. So it’s important to paint them in a light that’s not only creepy/scary/ominous but also likable.
Stay with me. As humans (out in the wild) we are not programmed to like everyone. (Thank the heavens!) But when it comes to literature it’s important to be able to “read” about a person without getting annoyed. Even if that person is a maggot. We do not have to “like” the person we are reading about (in a traditional sense) but they DO have to be “likable” in a reading sense. To much back-tracking, self-loathing, or (as in Dead Wood) 3rd person ego trips can cause a readers head to implode. (Or at the very least want to punch small woodland creatures.) For example:
“The Spook was disappointed.”
“All of which didn’t surprise The Spook.”
“The Spook learned the investment banker had pilfered nearly twenty million dollars.”
“None of that disappointed or even interested The Spook.”
“The Spook was a guitar player.”
“The Spook checked his watch.”
“The banker’s name was Gordon Springs and The Spook knew from countless hours of surveillance that he was due home in ten minutes.”
Should I keep going?
I am not averse to egotistical mad men, or their self-congratulatory diatribes. What I am averse to is reading their name 50 times in a 10 paragraph chapter. It becomes tiresome and (more importantly) unbearably bothersome.
And…as if that wasn’t enough…his perspective completely disappears a quarter of the way into the book. Which only makes me wonder why Amore felt the need to include it in the first place.
So why did I keep reading?
3 reasons: The wife. The sister. The sarcasm.
While the plot itself was interesting (and incredibly twisty…which was nice) it was John Rockne’s personal relationships that made this book worth reading. John himself (with the exception of some stellar sarcasm) was rather boring. Booted cop. Now P.I. Average Joe who gets stuck driving a Pontiac Sunfire for most of the book. No big whoop there. But add his quick wit to one fiery Italian wife and a sister who probably should have been a man, and what you get is a gut punching, super looper, roller-coaster ride of sarcastic awesomeness.
“Was that a compliment? You gotta be kiddin’ me, ” I said. “Who is this? Am I on Candid Camera? Where’s Alan Funt?” “God, do you ever shut your piehole, John?” “Occasionally,” I said. “Usually during the holidays.” “Call it professional courtesy, but I thought you might like opportunity to see what we’ve found, ” she said. “Say no and I’ll never be nice to you again.” “When did you start?”
All in all…not to shabby of a book. Had some bumps and bruises along the way, but in the end I was stumped WHICH means it deserves an extra star in my book. (You know…A for effort and all that jazz.)
Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “They say that you never know what life will bring you. That what initially appears to be great misfortune can often turn into great opportunities.” – John Rockne.
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