Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Dead Red Heart - R.P. Dahlke

   2011;3101 pages.  Book 2 (out of 5) of the “Dead Red Mystery” series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Crime Mystery; Women Sleuths.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Billy Wayne Dobson is getting to be quite a pest in Lalla Bains' life.  He’s been writing love notes on little white heart-shaped cut-outs, and leaving them all over her car.  It’s annoying as heck, and it’s time to do something.  And since Lalla’s a crop duster by trade, getting rid of pests is what she does.. 

   But when she confronts him, in an alleyway behind Mr. Kim’s  Vietnamese restaurant, he falls into her arms and whispers a sweet nothing.  That may sound romantic, but what he says is “The more there is, the less you see.”  And then he dies of a broken heart.  Weird, huh?

    You know, a pair of scissors poking out of your chest generally does that sort of thing.  And while Lalla is a suspect, at least for a little while, the reader knows she didn’t do it.  She’s the star of this series.

    But it begs the question.  Who would kill s homeless, ex-veteran street person without a dime to his name?  And why?

What’s To Like...
    A Dead Red Heart is a worthy sequel to the recently-read A Dead Red Cadillac, featuring the crop-dusting, ex-model, unlucky-at-love Lalla Bains and the trouble she seems to always get into in the otherwise unexciting city of Modesto, California.  The storyline moves at a crisp pace, and the structure is similar to the first book, and I mean that as a plus.  Lalla sleuths a bit in her spare time, mostly because nobody else seems to care who killed Billy Wayne, and the murderer of course takes steps to convey to Lalla that it’s not in her best interests of health to persevere in such meddling.

    The story is told in the first-person POV (Lalla’s), and the action starts right away, literally on the first page of the book.  There’s a heapload of characters for you to suspect of the dastardly deed, and a nice blend of new and recurring ones.  Lalla’s no longer torn between two boyfriends; one good, one bad.  Instead she’s ponders whether putting up with the pressure that her beau’s career (a sheriff) puts on their relationship is worth it.

   The Dead Red series seems to be in what I’d call the “quasi-cozy” genre.   Yes, there is some cussing, but it’s not done to excess.  And yes, Billy Wayne bleeds from the scissors insertion and dies onscreen, but I wouldn’t label it as “blood and gore”.  What is present in abundance is wit, sassiness, and humor.

    I was amused to see one of Lalla’s father’s medications, “Lasix”, mentioned by name.  I had to take this stuff during my stay in the hospital last year, and it is a brutal way to flush liquids out of one’s body.  And I was happy to see that Lalla’s cherry-red Cadillac, the centerpiece in the first book, is back in Book Two.

    A Dead Red Heart is a standalone story as well as part of a now 5-book series.  I happen to be reading these in order, mostly because I picked up the first three books in a “bundle” deal, but I think they can be read in any order and still be enjoyed.

Kewlest New Word…
Soporific (adj.) : tending to induce drowsiness or sleep.

    From the sycamores overhead, birds sang, hopped from branch to branch, fussed at each other, and generally went about the business of making more birds.  In a nearby bush, a bird trilled, coughed, tried again, coughed, and finally gave up.  Del Potts knocked aside a couple of dusty branches and waved me over.
    I strolled to the bush and gave him a hand out.  “Everybody has been looking for you, Del.”
    “I know, I know, but I’ve got to stay incognito.”  (loc. 5826)

   With mixed feelings, I dressed and went downstairs and into the kitchen.  Juanita was whisking batter for pancakes and my dad was sipping a cup of coffee and mashing eggs into his toast.
    “Is that tofu on your toast, or are you off your low cholesterol diet?”
    “What’re you, the food police?  I get two eggs a week, miss nosy-butt.”
    I shrugged off the surly comment.  Another cup of coffee, and he’d go from surly to just crabby.  (loc. 6799)

Kindle Details...
    A Dead Red Heart sells for $3.99 at Amazon.  The first book in the series, A Dead Red Cadillac, sells for $0.99, the rest of the books all go for $3.99 each.  The first three books in the series are also available in a bundle, which is how I’m reading the series thus far.  R.P. Dahlke also has two books to offer in another trilogy, titled “Pilgrim’s Progress”.  Those books go for $2.99 each, or you can get them bundled with the first three books in the Dead Red series, all for only $7.99.

 “You have a cell phone with you?”  “Do bunnies live in trees?”  (loc. 6703)
    I had a couple quibbles, but nothing major.

    There are some French phrases scattered throughout, and that’s a language I love.  But here it's all butchered (“n’ce pas”, “s’il vou plat”, for two examples), and I couldn’t figure out if this was bad French on R.P. Dahlke’s part, a deliberate mangling by Modesto natives, or spellchecker running amok in the editing process. 

    Also, one of the main clues, which for spoiler reasons, I’ll relegate to the comments section, left me confused.  Was it a red herring, a MacGuffin, or did the author write herself into a corner and just leave it dangling, hoping that no one would notice the lack of resolution?

     But I pick at nits.  I found A Dead Red Heart to be a quick read, devoid of any slow spots, with wittiness aplenty, and just as entertaining as the first book.  Here’s hoping that the rest of the series is as much fun.

    8 Stars.  For the record, I did guess who the perpetrator was.  But that’s only because at various points along the storyline, I guessed it was any one of about a dozen suspects, and one of those 12 guesses turned out to be correct.

1 comment:

Hamilcar Barca said...

Both Lalla and the reader spend most of the book trying to figure out the meaning to Billy Wayne's cryptic dying words. Alas, no answer is ever forthcoming. Lalla kinda applies it to her own life, but really, there's no reason Billy Wayne'd be giving such an opinion as he lays dying.

Methinks, the author painted herself into a corner.