Monday, May 09, 2005

DEADER BY THE LAKE by Doug Cummings (iUniverse)

Well, here comes our second thriller (after Mullan's CIRCLE OF SODOM) from our second radioman (after Noker's RATED F.)

I fear I may be falling into a rut. And, indeed, I had no intention of running another thriller already, but this plump hardback kept sticking out like a coffee table book on my bookshelf. (Note: This $34 hardcover copy came my way at a used book store, held back by the owner just for me, for a whopping $1.35.)

DEADER BY THE LAKE by Doug Cummings is a clever thriller based on a (sort of) imitative plot:
*Reno (our protagonist) is a former investigative journalist (he was fired);
*Reno gets offer to get job back if he performs an investigation on sly;
*Reno--against his instincts, of course--agrees;
*Reno goes to house of call girl, who was about to spill the beans on [Russian Mob];
* She's dead already, of course, and guess who everybody thinks did it?

Sounds sort of like a Law & Order: SVU episode.

But it is not. It is something much greater. The writing, at risk of sounding cliche, is very Grisham-esque, though (and no offense to Mr. Grisham) Cummings seems to know a lot more about what is going on in the details. This book flows wonderfully from top to bottom (I typically discard thrillers with a good deal of back-story at the start, but this one does it well.) The author's writing is more than competent--much better than the last two books I read from St. Martins Minotaur.

But here is what makes it so special:
(1) The book is filled with plot twists and truly unfolds near the end; I stayed up late to finish reading;
(2) Cummings seems to have an excellent grasp on everything going on: The Chicago area, crime scene rules and etiquette, the Russian mob and (certainly) how things are pressured and prioritized in a newsroom.

When I started flipping through it last night, I almost reread the whole thing--but then my editor called.

This book comes highly recommended. I'm keeping my $1.35 copy.