Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Review: Liquid Smoke

Private investigator Noah Braddock has finally found a balance in his once tumultuous life. Things are going well with his girlfriend Detective Liz Santagelo and with his alcoholic mother Carolina. But the weather for the San Diego resident turns foul when lawyer Darcy Gill shows up on his door and insists he look into a hopeless death row case. The kicker: the man scheduled to die for killing two men in cold blood is the father Noah never knew.

This book is actually the third in a series of Noah Braddock novels; the first was 2005’s Killer Swell and the second 2007’s Wicked Break. I had not read those first two (yet, something I will soon rectify) but that was okay. Everything you need to know is provided here for you to really enjoy the book.

Jeff Shelby is a skilled author, quickly pulling the reader into the story with interesting characters and situations. I had forgotten about the opening scene until I got to the end (I like how it all tied together completely). He fleshes out the supporting cast like best-friend Carter and the dark and brooding Miranda well, and even makes the investigative officers encountered along the way memorable. The dialogue is witty at times without feeling unnatural and gritty at times without feeling gratuitous. The plot has a number of interesting twists and turns to keep the pages turning. And, in the end, the reader is left to ponder the moral dilemmas that faced the characters in the book. It really makes you think.

What I have to give the author credit for is taking risks with his characters. As a recreational writer myself, I know how hard it can be to upset the status quo with your creations and move them off into a direction that not all readers will appreciate. The writer has to introduce permanent change into their worlds to expose new aspects and situations, even when it requires sacrifice of other characters. As they say, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. This literary omelet, with a dash of Liquid Smoke, broke some eggs.

If you’re looking for an investigative thriller with not so atypical characters, this might be a book for you.

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