Friday, March 27, 2009

Mysteriously Un-dead??

TAKE TWO DIFFERENT AUTHORS, their individual sleuths, mix them together in one book and what do you get? That is exactly what Authors Michael A. Black and Julie Hyzy did in their joint venture: Dead Ringer.

Black’s PI, Ron Shade, is hired by an insurance company to investigate whether a policy holder, whose death cost the company millions in death benefits, is really dead after all. Hyzy’s newswoman, Alex St. James, at the same time, is trying to fend off the amorous advances of a flakey undertaker, interested in heating up an old family friendship, while at the same time she is trying to satisfy her boss with an undercover story about homelessness.

Alex is forced to call on Shade, not for investigative help, but because her boss is having second thoughts about the used car he purchased from Shade through Alex. Neither initially realize how interconnected their respective projects are, but when they do they find themselves going from the homeless shelters of Chicago to the glitzy strip in Las Vegas where both face death trying to figure out who is really dead and who is not.

The book is told in a series of first-person chapters, alternating between Shade and Alex. The literary technique is not only unusually well-done, but it allows the reader to see ahead of the participants and to actually “solve” parts of the mystery before the main characters realize what is happening. The book is filled with interesting, memorable characters and takes the reader on a zigzagging, sometimes perilous, but entirely satisfying ride.

Dead Ringer; A Ron Shade / Alex St. James Mystery. Five Star, Gale Cengage Learning, $25.95.

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