**This book can standalone**
Dead Down East is a fictional murder mystery. It is both detective noir and smart screwball comedy, rolled into one. Jesse Thorpe, a young private investigator operating out of Augusta, Maine, narrates the tale.
Jesse’s vacation on Great Pond is cut short when he receives a mysterious phone call from a former client, Cynthia Dumais. She begs to be rescued from an island south of Brunswick, within a mile of where William Lavoilette, the governor of Maine, had been assassinated the night before. She insists that her life is in danger, but is unwilling to provide Jesse any further information. Reluctantly, Jesse agrees to help.
Within a week, he has three separate clients, each with his, or her, own desperate need to have the murder solved. Jesse assembles a motley team of compadres, including rock band members, an eccentric psychic and his zesty girlfriend, Angele Boucher, to help him with the case. While the FBI and the Maine State Police investigate political motives, Jesse looks for the woman—Cherchez la femme—as the trail draws him through the lives, and DNA, of seven of the governor’s former mistresses.
There is a stream of characters at the beginning but they rotate back through them so it isn’t overwhelming. Jesse is a man’s man. He fishes, has misplaced women’s negligee, and names his car/gun. He keeps cheap wine in his cupboards, likes his women a little crazy but passionate, but values people and doesn’t seem to be a judgmental person. I shook my head more than once at his antics but I didn’t dislike him – well maybe a few times but he is a charming character.
What makes him a well-rounded character is the supporting characters. His lady Angele is amusing and adds a passionate edge to the book. His band mates – all of them – add another layer. Michael and his wife added a softer edge to Jesse and are interesting characters in their own right.
This plot is not a whodunit and it is NOT about fishing. The author doesn’t give any clues and withholds all of the information needed to ‘solve the case’ until Jesse knows more. It is a crime novel that follows Jesse and his process of solving the crime. It was very methodical at times and a little wishy washy at others but overall was a solid crime plot. I did like the realistic aspects of what it took to track everything down. The level of detail that I normally dislike was necessary to show what it takes to solve a crime. Hard work, planning, some lying, and a lot of luck.
The writing and characters were enjoyable and believable. The pace of the book was steady and there were enough moments of interest to keep me vested as a reader. I prefer ‘whodunit’ books but this was a different type of mystery novel. It showed the process of figuring out who the murderer was. I actually really enjoyed all of that, and the level of detail the author brought to solving the murder. Even the interactions, although sometimes not necessary and a little lengthy, always served some sort of purpose.
The real problem I had with this book was the ending. I just sort of started laughing and saying ‘that’s absolutely ridiculous!’ and ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’ There is no way they would just get away with it and it was such a gamble. They could have compromised EVERYTHING and to make matters worse an OFFICER OF THE LAW HELPED. Needless to say I was pissed because it was just too far out there. To make matters worse the entire writing style and power behind solving the case just sort of disintegrated into its other side – cornball comedy. The entire last 10% of the book was horrible for me.
This was a solid 4 star book right up until the ending. Good characters, interesting mystery, and easy to read style of writing. The ending just pushed the boundary of reality in too many directions at once and became a true work of ‘fiction’ – to the point I no longer believed it was plausible.
I received a copy in exchange of an honest review.