Dead Pen Pals, a novel by Dave Diamantes
DEAD PEN PALS was released last week. My friend James Hatch was kind enough to review it:
Overall Rating: Five Stars.
I confess, I’m a computer nerd who enjoys comedy, which is the reason I volunteered to review Dead Pen Pals. The blurb hooked me. I liked the theme. A gross male poses as a beautiful woman over the Internet, sends soft-porn pictures of Eastern European models to horny males to sweeten the experience, and collects fees for access to his ever changing web sites. And then the blackmail begins, as do the murders.
Even more, I found the dialog between Detective “Bugs” Cameron and his partner Andy Debbs compelling and realistic. The verbal sparing between the two men was loaded with gritty humor you’d expect from two friends and partners, as were the razor-sharp barbs from other men in the precinct. Typical was the comment concerning the female hottie, TV reporter Donna Tangerini, who lives two doors down from Bugs: “I’d drink her bathwater,” and the response, “Get in line.” The story has many colorful characters, so the reader must pay attention, but they all coalesce into a coherent and enjoyable storyline.
“Bugs” is so dubbed because he raises bees. Bees are important because their venom is a folk remedy for treating Multiple Sclerosis, an affliction intruding into the perfect beauty (except for a slightly imperfect nose) and life of Miss Tangerini. Throughout the “catch the bad guy” theme, the romantic tension between Bugs and Miss Tangerini grows sweeter as Bugs reaches out to help her with his stinging bees.
The bad guy suspect, Darnell Harris, is, well, bad—very bad. He lies, he beats up homeless people, he’s just despicable. You want him to be caught in the worst way. He slithers through the novel while evidence builds against him. He simply must be guilty, but there is a twist. The murders, scams and beatings might not be due to him alone, although you will want them to be. By the time I reached the end, which I read several times, I understood who did what, but there was one lingering problem—why was one key character involved in crime? I assumed a motive because one wasn’t explicitly stated. You will have to go back and re-read chapter three to make your own conclusion.
For me, the high points of the novel were the developing relationship between Bugs and the TV reporter, and the dialog in general. The dialog was fun to read, and caused me to giggle out loud many times. Although not vital to enjoying the novel, I would have liked a definitive explanation for the criminal involvement of one of the characters, but I won’t tell you which one. Maybe that’s the point. Are you detective enough to determine that on your own?
Review by: James L. Hatch, Solstice Publishing author of The Substitute and Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!
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