on December 15, 2011
A DEAD RED HEART, Dead Bear Publishing, an e-book by R. P. Dahlke is a murder mystery with a woman protagonist the Spanish would refer to as a real testarudo- stubborn to a fault.
Lalla Bains is a twice divorced, forty- year-old former model who has returned to Modesto to run her father's successful dust-cropping business. She has an inclination to want to solve crimes and, when a man who has a crush on her is killed, she is a suspect and can't leave the investigation alone. The crime takes place in an alley behind Mr. Kim's restaurant in a rather undesirable section of town. From this point, the plot evolves with numerous suspects besides Lalla. These include Kim, who is a former Vietnamese freedom fighter, his lovely daughter, Grace, a nebulous shadow figure, and a pilot that Lalla fired. A number of other characters are important to the story, and most are Lalla's former classmates or other acquaintances. The exceptions are Detective Rodney, Pippa Roulette, a beautiful new addition to the police department, and Sheriff Caleb Stone, an ex-marine hunk who is the new love of Lalla's life.
The story is based on a plot I have not previously encountered and follows along at a brisk pace that readers no doubt will enjoy. The protagonist exhibits not only rebellious tendencies, but often downright ridiculous actions and police procedures as pictured, are quite removed from normally acceptable action. Additionally, manuscript proofing- errors increase gradually to become a sizable number in the last third of the book.
All in all, however, if a reader is willing to overlook the problems described, they will find a few entertaining hours. Reviewed by John H. Manhold, award winning fiction/non-fiction author.
NOTE:I have been informed that the author has published an edited copy that should measurably increase enjoyment.3/30/14 JHM.
on February 29, 2012
I received this book to review from the World Literary Cafe (WLC). I requested it with the hope that it will be a quick read, and indeed it was.
I noticed that the writing needs some mild editing, as in, there are words repeated twice like "this this", and it wasn't a single case scenario.
The story was entertaining and engaged my attention almost the entire time. It had a nice mystery that wound through the pages. There was also a sweet romance which at times felt a little forced.
I give the book 3 stars, because I don't really agree with the reality of it. I mean, we're talking about a 40-year old ex-model who suddenly turns private investigator and is damn good at it with no experience behind her back? Seriously? That's not only incredible - it's impossible. I know that there are many books like that, where the main investigator isn't really a police officer, but they always, ALWAYS have a real officer/retired cop/real private investigator behind their back to feed them info and help with the clues. Not here. In "A dead red heart" Lalla is the only one with brains and a thought process. Okay, sure I give it that Dal was a journalist who was helping her. But my point still stands.
I think that even though this is a work of fiction, there must be some realistic boundary in it. After all it's in the contemporary genre, not the paranormal or urban fantasy where all sorts of things are possible. Here we're talking about normal people with no special powers.
I don't agree with the author on her portrayal of the cops either. Sure, some cops really are lazy asses and all, but how come not even one of them had brains? Why did all their information come from Lalla, the ex-model? She fed them clues that she stumbled upon and she figured out and they never got to think at all? That's lame, and smells of prejudice against the law enforcement.
Also, I think that Lalla should've been scared at least a little bit. But no. She was real steel. She only got a bit shaken when she got the threat note and the dead rat (ewwwwwwww!!!) but that's about it. If it were me (or any other woman in her right mind) I would've freaked out!! Instead, what did Lalla do? She got into the mess even deeper.
Her relationship with Caleb, like I said, felt a little forced. He wanted her, she wasn't sure half the time. He ran after her, called her, wanted to live with her and marry her. And Lalla was just so whiny! She hurt him without thinking twice about it, then he kept running back to her!It was kind of annoying too.
The characters were well developed in their unrealistic situations. The one person I liked the most was Lalla's father. He was funny and sounded real.
Second in a series, R.P. Dahlke's Dead Red Heart stars 40-year-old crop duster and amateur sleuth Lalla Bains as she unravels the mysteries of her heart and of her erstwhile stalker's death. Maybe she's a suspect. And maybe old school friends are trying to scare her off from learning something else. But Lalla Bains doesn't react well to threats of any kind--not even threats of marriage.
The Modesto California scene is convincingly described--I can feel the warmth, hear the airplane overhead, smell the dust in the air. I can hear the characters' voices too, from psychologist-turned-waitress to model-turned-pilot to Vietnam vet now living on the streets. There's real family drama fuelled with real life adding depth and feeling to the tale. And, of course, there's that murder to be solved.
A gentle romantic tension is nicely balanced with stubborn independence and sheer determination as the story unfolds. Foolish risks are plausibly undertaken. Danger is real. And the resolution, while maybe not convincing in retrospect, works perfectly when it arrives.
I'm tempted to go and find book one now. Even more, I'll be looking out for book three. These characters and this place have the staying power to fuel many more tales.
Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of this book from World Literary Café in exchange for my honest review.
on March 29, 2013
Lalla Bains, a forty-year-old, twice divorced, ex-model, has been the unwilling recipient of attention and love letters from Billy Wayne. The day after he covers her car with poems on paper snowflakes, he is stabbed to death. With his final breath he tells her, "The more there is the less you see." Even though he exasperated her, she thinks his death deserves more investigation than it is receiving. So she begins her own investigation even while working with the problems of the aero-ag business run by her and her father. Also involved is her friend and maybe fiancé Sheriff Caleb Stone.
While she does use words originally at times-"His eyes left wet slug trails on my skin until I folded my arms over my breasts and broke the connection"--I found the book full of cliches and repetitions. The terms "took off," "banked over" and "aimed for" were all used in one sentence. In another she writes, "The wind had scoured the evening of its usual dust and debris, and now stars were punching holes in the velvety black dome over my head." We hear about her age, divorce record, and former career several times.
The book has poor grammar ("alright," "us girls have to stick together" "Go slow.").
The men, on the whole, are obnoxious sexist pigs. Her actions don't always make sense: A pen and paper drop to the floor of the car while she is driving so, instead of waiting until she stops, she reaches over, several times, to pick them up. Naturally, she loses control of the car and has an accident. Her car insurance had expired so she was driving illegally.
A French phrase used a couple times is misspelled, differently each time. There is an unexplained and quick transition from talking to her father at home and talking to a group of first graders.
Even though she has known Caleb forever, she doesn't trust him entirely when it comes to exchanging information.
One conversation talks about the danger of using meth. It has good information but seems to have been thrown in just for that reason, not to advance the plot.
She never does explain Billy Wayne's final words though they are mentioned frequently.
I think some good rewriting and editing could have raised the level of this book to four stars.
This was a free Amazon download.
on February 28, 2012
Typically me, I have come into this series with the second book, although luckily `A Dead Red Heart' works fine as a stand alone novel. It was quite easy to pick up the background of the character Lalla Bains and arrive at the situation in which we now find her. In fact, in no time at all, it felt as though I knew her personally, such is the strength and personality of the characterisation.
You have to know right from the start, that this romantic mystery also has its fair share of humour and nothing is meant to be taken too seriously, which is just as well given the quirky nature of the disparate group of characters which the author has created and brought to life, in such spectacular fashion.
That includes Lalla Bains herself. Someone more unsuited to her job as a crop duster, both in appearance and personality, you couldn't wish to find and even being au fait with her background and tarnished reputation, doesn't prepare you for her quirky dispostition and flamboyant personality. Mind you, you only have to look at Lalla's father to explain where some of her eccentricities might stem from and let's not mention her past private life! trouble just seems to follow the girl around like a bad smell!
It certainly doesn't look too good, that someone who is all set to marry one of the local police officers, should keep being discovered with all these dead bodies and involved in crime scenes, that she seems intent on solving single-handedly, much against her lover's wishes, although Caleb seems to have little, if any control, over this impatient and impetuous female, who is obviously addicted to danger, as well as to him.
I got the impression though, that much of Lalla's bravado in front of Caleb, was something of a front which masked her underlying fear of committment, responsibility and getting hurt again. Her reputation had obviously preceeded her return from the city to her home town and she appears intent on shouldering much of the blame for her past mistakes, when really her only crime seems to have been one of being taken in by a hard luck story and having lousy taste in men. She hasn't necessarily chosen the way of life she now has, but on the other hand it is a great `get out of jail free' card, when it comes to hiding away from her own feelings. She can't really believe that Caleb is prepared to accept her for the person she is now and not what has happened to her in the past, not realising that if she pushes him away enough times, he may be lost to her. It is taking Lalla a long time to accept both herself and Caleb for the individuals they are, and that whilst there are no certainties in life, she has to open her heart one more time if she ever hopes to find the happiness and love she yearns for.
I found it astounding that, in a town where you have to pass an interview panel to be able to consider moving into the community, which is then only deemed appropriate when a member of the townsfolk dies to make a space for you, that there are so many unsolved crimes and murders ... and Lalla is at the heart of all the action.
The plot moves at a rattling pace, full of twists and turns, with plenty of excitement and energy. This all comes across in the lively narrative, which despite the underlying humour, is very perceptive and seeds the idea in the readers minds, about some very serious and controversial issues including; organ donation, homelessness, and PTSD.
All of the characters, no matter how small their part, have well defined personalities, which are believable, easy to relate to and become sympathetic with. They are however, without exception, exaggerated and very much larger than life. I have to say that I thought this made discovering the identity of the murderer a little too easy, however, fast changing events caused me to change my mind about the perpetrator several times, only to have my initial suspicions confirmed, but not until right near to the end of the story.
Similarly, although the motive for this string of crimes wasn't discovered until right near the end of the story, it was there right in front of you, if you read closely enough. I guess it is purely a matter of personal taste, just how much of a plot you like to be revealed `up front', but for me, it might have involved a little more guesswork and deduction on my part.
Coming from such a small country as the UK, where their presence is unnecessary, I also found amongst the pages of this book, some valuable insights into the life, work and dangers of being a crop duster. This is something which the author has first-hand knowledge of, coming as she does from a crop dusting family. Very sadly, this same occupation which gave her her start in life, is the one that has caused her most pain, with the death of her son in a tragic crop dusting accident. That she shares even the smallest insight into this necessary, yet dangerous job, is a tribute to her tenacity and attention to detail, all helping to make the reality of Lalla's situation so much more poignant.