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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ken McKea's Narrative Mischief and Magic

If you haven't discovered Ken McKea (aka Brad Strickland)'s high-powered Jim Dallas thrillers, you're in for a real treat.  now's the right time to catch up.  Eden Feint is the third installment of the proposed thirteen-part series, at once a tribute to the great John D. MacDonald and a fresh departure.  Taken together, the first three books are like the opening movement of a rich classical score.  McKea's about to shake things up, I believe, in the second movement.  So start now and be prepared.  Here's my Amazon review of Eden Feint:

The third in the series of Jim Dallas thrillers should signal the end of Phase One, if author Ken McKea's on I suspect he is.  I say this because the first three books are variations not on a theme but on a narrative tack:  we don't meet the villain till very late in each book.  In Atlanta Bones, we're ungraware of the villain's existence for quite some time.  Cuban Dagger pulls off a magical twist on this technique by naming the villain early on...having Dallas spot him in passing--and then seeing the results of the assassin's cruel work with the knife, building up our sense of fear before the big brawl at the end...and Eden Feint?  I'll avoid plot spoilers except to say that there are more than one and once again we're made to wait.

This is a wonderful, beautifully written novel with a crackerjack mystery at its core.  And Dallas and his huge part-Seminole semi-pacifist friend Sam have grown into one of the great mystery teams.  McKea has shown painstaking care in developing the theme of Jim Dallas's transcendence of his burn scars.  The other theme, Dallas's drive for revenge--and his ticking off the days on the calendar until his wife's killers leave prison is really picking up steam here.

But:  my New Year's prayer is that a second phase begins with the fourth Jim Dallas novel.  In the next outing I want some serious action on the page, not off.  And I need for Dallas to square off against a terrifying foe--one who's in sight from the get-go.  In other words, I need the big guy to get in more serious trouble.

That said, five stars--because McKea writes wonderfully, his settings are terrific, the characters are compelling and deep...and because somewhere John D. MacDonald is smiling.

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