This June brings another installment of local author
Tom Schreck’s Duff Dombrowski mystery series.
TKO: Round Two is the sparkling sequel to last year’s On the Ropes: Round One. Once again, Duffy Dombrowski, social worker extraordinaire, is doing his best to help the weak and downtrodden while avoiding as much paperwork as possible. In his newest caper, Duff is assigned the case of Howard Reinhart, a man recently released from prison; he was convicted of murdering four of his high school classmates who had taunted him once too often. When Howard misses an appointment and a high school cheerleader is murdered, he is the obvious suspect to everyone but Duff, who is determined to see that Howard is treated fairly. In addition to trying to find Howard, Duff has also managed to saddle himself with the responsibility of a teen boy who has named Duff his sensei, a teen boy whose tormented high school career is eerily similar to Howard’s. Allah-King, Duff’s Muslim basset hound, once again provides canine comic relief, and Duff’s fellow regulars at AJ’s, the bar he frequents, continue their endless, inane barfly conversations, which add a certain color to the story. Duff is a man of honor, kind of like Robert Parker’s detective character, Spencer, and this sequel is worthy of Schreck’s first book. If you are looking for a fun, fast summer read, look no further.
Apparently, June is mystery month, because I have another new one to review. Fans of Julia Spencer-Fleming will be thrilled to hear that the long-awaited newest book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series is out. I Shall Not Want is the sixth and last book in the series, and it concludes on a high note. The series is set in a small town in the Adirondacks. Clare Fergusson is an Episcopal priest who attracts trouble like magnets attract iron; Russ Van Alstyne is the chief of police in Millers Kill—native son, Vietnam vet and very married. The first book in the series, In the Bleak Midwinter, introduces the pair as Clare starts her new job at St. Alban’s parish and immediately finds a baby on the rectory doorstep and Russ is called in to deal with the case. Thus begins one of the best mystery series I’ve ever read. The setting makes it interesting to Capital Region residents, the plots keep mystery fans coming back, but the relationship between the two main characters gives the series heart and soul. The latest mystery involves illegal migrant workers, drug dealing and the possibility of a serial killer. Two other characters share center stage with Clare and Russ—Officer Flynn, a rookie introduced in previous books, and Hadley Knox, a new recruit to the Millers Kill Police Department. Keep your fingers crossed that Spencer-Fleming will continue her Millers Kill saga featuring these two in the future.
Chuck Palahniuk has a new book out. Palahniuk, author of Fight Club (made into a movie starring Brad Pitt), plus seven other novels and two non-fiction works, is a cult favorite whom I’ve never read before. But, when I saw the galley of Snuff, his newest novel, I figured I should give him a try.
The premise of the book is certainly provocative. Famous porn star Cassie Wright is making the movie of her career—she intends to break a world–record and have sex with 600 men in succession on camera. There are four narrators: Mr. 72, Mr. 137, Mr. 600, and Sheila, a woman on the set crew. Through their distinct voices, we find out how a porn movie is made, what started Cassie on her storied rise to fame and how one of the current participants intends to turn the movie into a snuff film so that his name will live in infamy. Snuff is fascinating in a gritty way, but readers with tender sensibilities and/or intolerance for vulgar language should not pick up this book. Sex is portrayed as a mechanical act, divorced from emotion, imagination and even pleasure; perhaps this depiction is appealing to Palahniuk’s fans, but it struck me as depressing, not titillating. Perhaps I am too old to appreciate the author’s cutting edge sensibility and hipster ethos, but this book wasn’t my cup of tea. Reader, you have been warned!
Susan Taylor has been in the book business, in one aspect or another, since 1982. SShe currently works at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. Stop by the store if you are looking for a good book—she’s read a lot more than she can talk about here!