Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A dance of death in Phoenix

Last Dance in Phoenix

By Kurt Reichenbaugh

Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing 

Pub. Date: May 22, 2015

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I like the way Kurt Reichenbaugh's tricky little suspense mystery Last Dance in Phoenix starts out. Kent Starling is a successful accountant with a wife and a mistress. He tends to speak his mind too often which gets him in trouble with his boss. One day he gets an email from his childhood best friend Roy who he has not seen for years and doesn't always remember with the fondest thoughts. He avoids the emails until Roy sends him a picture of his mistress.

From there things go downhill for our hero as Kurt loses his job and bodies start showing up. I really like fiction in which the relatively innocent protagonist is thrown into a bad situation that he never expected. I especially like seeing how and if he gets out of it. I think it is the essence of noir. The nice touch here is the addition of that old friend who you want to forget about. Don't we all have that strange friend in high school that we wonder why we hung out with and how we would react if he or she came back into our lives? This nifty little novel takes it to the extreme and adds the obligatory twist at the end. Reichenbaugh writes in a straightforward manner and with a slight Spillane-type roughness that doesn't go over the top but still lets us see the everyman in his character. My main problem though is with structure. The novel starts out quickly as the author introduces us to the character and sets the stage. As we come to the first murder, we are hooked. Yet after that it starts to drag. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because the detectives are unrealistically slow to see the bumbler in Kent. Or because I didn't see enough connection with Kent and his wife to feel the tenseness. But there did seem to be a mid-point lag where the intensity was lost. Yet it still remained an entertaining novel and a promising look at a young mystery writer. I definitely recommend this book to those who want a good mystery yet I still want to see what else Mr. Reichenbaugh has up his sleeve before I start throwing flowers and yelling hosannas. For now, a "Yippee!" will do.

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