Monday, December 14, 2009

A Deadly Wilderness, by Kelly Irvin (Five-Star)

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(Click cover for more information)
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I finally turned off the reading lamp an hour and a half after my usual bedtime last night. I had reached the last few chapters of Kelly Irvin's A Deadly Wilderness. It wasn't so much that I "couldn't put it down." It's that I refused to put it down.
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Set right here in San Antonio, A Deadly Wilderness is a fast-paced thriller that follows the exploits of Detective Ray Johnson, who, while hiking in one of the city's wilderness parks, literally falls over a dead body--but not just any dead body. The late Joey Doyle, son of a prominent local family, has been savagely murdered and partially dismembered. Immediate and intense political pressure fuel Ray's innate overdrive, and he fights both the politicos and the clock to solve the case before the killer strikes again...and then again...and then again. All the while, Ray's professional skills and his devout faith are challenged to the limit every perilous inch of the way. Then, when he starts to get too close, the killer turns his eyes on Ray.
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An excellently conceived and cleverly crafted supporting cast push and pull at Ray throughout the ordeal. His on-again/off-again relationship with the lovely Susana Martinez-Acosta becomes entangled with the investigation, as does his strained friendship with Susana's protective brother, Samuel--who also happens to be Ray's boss. Hindered as much as helped by Detective Deborah Smith, his alcoholic partner, Ray limps one step forward then stumbles two steps backward until...nope, not gonna tell ya. You'll have ta read the "until."
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But Ms. Irvin does more than spin a gripping tale of murder, lust, and greed. She invades the human heart and turns it inside out, spilling the good, the bad and the ugly into a jumbled mess on the floor. Then she very carefully and skillfully reassembles the pieces and sculpts them into a diverse cast of personae who complement and collide, attract and repel, win and lose, and...well, I guess act a lot like you and I. They're at once lovable, annoying, inspiring, frustrating, and...well, I guess are a lot like you and I. Do I detect a trend here?
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Only one more thing. You'll enjoy Ms. Irvin's delightful writing voice that permeates the characters' dialog and garnishes the narrative with glib one-liners and poignant observations. I mean...okay, let me give you an example. Now, this is just from her 'Acknowledgments' page, mind you; it's not part of the actual story and, in fact, isn't designed to be overtly clever. You be the judge:
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"It's important to state for the record that the events in this novel are complete and utter fiction. San Antonio parks are incredibly safe, beautiful places for families to share wonderful times together, in large part because of the San Antonio Park Police. The crimes that occur in parks in this novel are figments of a feverish, overactive imagination."
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Now I ask you: if she can write a sterile acknowledgment with this much personality, imagine how it reads when she's selling you her dream. Just how do you not read a story by someone who writes like this? Uh huh, you'll refuse to put it down, too.
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So, now **yawn** I've begun my work week sleep deprived, and it's all Ms. Irvin's fault. If I get grouchy, Kelly, you have Jeannie to answer to, that's all I have to say...
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(A Deadly Wilderness is scheduled for release in January 2010. I highly recommend you pre-order it here.)
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4 comments:

Eileen Key said...

Kelly is a truly gifted writer and her book IS gripping! And I must say, this is one well written review!

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Sounds like a great read!!

Four Lights For Him said...

Another one I must read...especially since we're from San Antonio!!

Bruce Judisch said...

Yeah, you'll like this one, Jennifer. I know the author; she's done a great job.

Thanks again for stopping by and commenting.

Cheers! Bruce