Monday, December 18, 2006

A Three Chambered Heart

"Relative Danger" is a mystery with a three chambered heart. First is Doug Pearce's hunt for answers about a long lost uncle who came to a bad end in a hotel room in 1948 Singapore. Doug is about the least likely sleuth one might ever encounter in the genre. He is an "innocent abroad" with a nice earthen hue. His only credentials are a blood relationship to the victim and (thanks to being laid off from a brewery job) enough free time to look into the case. His dependency on "the kindness of strangers" begins in chapter one with a mysterious benefactor financing his journey overseas. It continues person-to-person to the very end of the story with a timely arrival of Singapore authorities and media. This person-to-person connection makes the figures we meet along the way real, even recognizable.

All points in between Morocco and Singapore are connected in the second beating lobe of this story's heart by a hunt for a blood red diamond that chases through some of the most exotic and interesting places on Earth. The taste, smell and feel of each waypoint is so richly told that a it's hard to resist the urge to check the passport between chapters for freshly inked visa stamps.

The most delicious pulse of this story's heart comes from its third lobe, Aisha Al-Kady, a woman as exotic and sensual as the environment she fills. In Arabic, Aisha means life. In "Relative Danger", Aisha means life AND to have it more abundantly. She's so strongly drawn that dents in her halo are real, the beauty bone-deep, the sex exuberant, and the bullets deadly.

This isn't the kind of story intended to be heady or profound. No, what earns "Relative Danger" its chops is the way it's told. This is a story with compelling prose, a gut-feel reality, an unexpected twist ending, and a delightfully Southern pace. It is an Edgar Allan Poe Awards® 2005 Nominee for Best First Novel By An American Author. It is an impressive first outing for Charles Benoit. I look forward to more.


Katie said...

that sounds really good. And you review just makes me want to read it. you write so well, Don! :)

Bill said...

Great review!

Charles benoit said...

I am humbled.
Thanks for making my day.