Author Archives: Scott Dyson

THE INN price increase…

The Inn Cover 4
Today is the last day that THE INN will be priced at $0.99. 

In case you aren’t aware, THE INN is a 37000 word horror novella.  The description from its Amazon blurb:


The Jackson High School Band and student director Kimberly Bouton are making their biennial journey to a music festival in the deep South for fun and educational opportunities. Kim expects to deal with hormonal teenagers, a severe lack of sleep, and long boring bus rides, but the roadside inn where the band stays on their visit hides a sinister secret – and it translates to unimagined horrors for students and teachers alike…

Check into THE INN, where the guests are the entertainment…

Tomorrow it will go up to $1.99.  So if you see this today and you were thinking that you might want to grab it, procrastinate no longer!

My 25000 word novella THE CAVE will remain priced at $0.99, as will all of my short fiction and short fiction collections.


“E” by Kate Wrath

While perusing the “also viewed by” selections that Amazon provided on one of my own stories (I was either looking at THE INN or at the recently-free JACK’O’LANTERN and Other Stories) I came across a couple of selections that were listed as free.  The covers on two in particular grabbed me (plus the fact that they were free) so I investigated further, and upon a cursory read of the description I downloaded both.  (Hey, it cost me nothing, right?)

Here’s the Amazon description for Kate Wrath’s book E:

Life is harsh. It makes no exceptions. Not even for the innocent.

Outpost Three: a huddle of crumbling buildings choked by a concrete wall. Cracked pavement, rusted metal, splintering boards. Huge robotic Sentries police the streets, but the Ten Laws are broken every time one turns its back.

Eden is determined, smart, and a born survivor. Stripped of her memories and dumped on the streets of the Outpost, slavers and starvation are only the beginning of her problems. A devastating conflict is coming that threatens to consume her world and tear her newfound family apart.

Does that make you want to read it?  It worked for me.  I like dystopian fiction.  I’m not sure exactly why, but I’m a sucker for futuristic extrapolations.  And the description gave me some of those:  an Outpost (this being #3, I’m curious about the others), robotic Sentries (advanced AI tech?), the Ten Laws (political commentary?), and crumbling infrastructure (again, political commentary?).  It also promises an interesting character with a lot at stake in Eden (hence the title “E?”).

I’ve started HORNS by Joe Hill, but it’s a paper version, and I can’t read it in bed.  So out comes the Kindle, and the first thing there is Wrath’s novel.  So I opened it up, and started reading.

Kate Wrath grabbed me from the first paragraph.  “I wake up in a box of iron.  I know nothing, remember nothing.  There is one thought imprinted on my consciousness:  You have been erased.”  From there it is compelling reading.  A picture of a society comes out through her protagonist’s (Eden’s) experiences as she struggles to survive in those first moments after finding herself deposited in this area like so much garbage.  The author uses language beautifully to convey the character and setting but she never loses sight of the story and plot as things set up.

I wanted to find out more about the society and more about Eden herself.

It isn’t a perfect novel, but what is?  I just finished NOS4A2 by the acclaimed Joe Hill, and it was far from a perfect novel.  For me, for my reading experience, Wrath’s E was the better novel.  So what makes it flawed?  For me (and your mileage may vary depending on where you come from as a reader), the novel began to suffer from some pacing problems at about the same time as the romantic triangle between Eden, Matt (who runs Outpost 3 and who doesn’t seem to be a good person) and Jonas (her protector, a man with secrets) came into full swing.  Suddenly Eden’s thoughts turned from survival and from her family and to her feelings for these men more and more.  For me, it bogged down the narrative.  I liked the problem-focused style of the first half better.  For me, it seemed like it changed Eden from this strong force of nature to … something else.

It wasn’t a fatal flaw in any sense.  The story continued to progress, just at a slightly slower pace, and finally wrapped up in a sensible, satisfying conclusion.  I immediately downloaded Book 2, Evolution, and am already a few pages into it.

One question I had as I read was, “Is this a young adult novel, or does it aim for an adult audience?”  I felt that it pretty much worked on the YA level as well as on an adult level, but usually the protagonist in YA is a teen.  (Thinking of Katniss and Tris here.)  In this book, I had the idea that Eden is a beautiful 20-something woman.  Maybe early 20’s, but not exactly a teenager.  Maybe I’m wrong.  In the end, it didn’t make a difference.

I’ll be posting a quickie version of this review on Amazon (when I get around to it) and will likely be giving the book five stars.  I think it deserves that rating, even if it weren’t a first novel.  I hope that the rest of the series can keep up the standard.

E by Kate Wrath.  Available at Amazon’s Kindle store as well as other places.


What keeps me reading…

I could have titled this post “What stops me from reading,” but I haven’t found too many things where I just set something aside and say “the heck with that one.”  Which is to say that I finish most of what I start.  As a wannabe-writer, I read articles and blogs when they deal with craft, and a common theme seems to be that we need to keep our foot on the pedal throughout our works of genre fiction.  Is that true?  I’ve been thinking about it after reading Joe Hill’s NOS4A2.  Because as I read that book, there were a few times early on where I almost set it aside and moved onto something else.

Why?  Well, if you read my review on Goodreads of the book, you’d see that I felt there were times the author, like his father Stephen King, bogged himself down in narrative details that were designed to add richness to the setting, to the character, to the plot.  But unlike his father, every instance of this in Hill’s novel did NOT work.  They just pulled away from the main thrust of the story.  I can’t get specific on it, because 1.) I don’t have the book with me and 2.) I didn’t take any notes.  I just knew that I was considering putting the book down without finishing.  (I’ve had that feeling in Hill’s father’s works as well, notably recently with UNDER THE DOME.)

So I started thinking about what I, as a reader (a former VORACIOUS reader who did about ten books a month, currently a less voracious type who maybe does three or four books a month), look for as I read.  What keeps me reading?  I already stated that one thing that MIGHT stop me from reading is having too much extraneous detail added into the narrative.  Another might be an inconsistent plotline.

So far, I haven’t thrown anything across the room for grammatical/typographical errors.  (Good thing, too, because I’m reading so much on my Kindle and it might break if I threw it.)  So I think I can safely rule them out as what makes me stop reading.  And the converse, that it is excellent grammar and absolutely clean, perfect typing that would KEEP me reading, is also out.  I believe that these things appear or disappear based on the reader’s (my) involvement in the story.  If a story has really pulled me in, I tend to skip over the grammatical/typographical errors.  Now, I admit that I haven’t really found a single work that is LOADED with the things (apparently contrary to Amazon’s reviews, which seem to find typos everywhere they look in a lot of indie fiction…are those people who are actually reading, or are they people from big publishing houses and bookstores and such who have an axe to grind against indie writers?).  Most every book has a few.  Some more than others.  No pattern as to whether it’s more prevalent in trad-published fiction or in self-published fiction.  Most pass by my eyes while registering in a very superficial way with my brain.  (Like, “oh, they meant ‘wind’ and not ‘mind.’  Got it.)

Yet, I can definitely notice differences in what keeps me reading.  What calls to me when I put it down, making me want to get back to it as soon as possible.  What I can leave for days or weeks at a time and come back to it, not feeling much urgency.  And mostly, I feel it comes down to plot.

If an author gives me a compelling plot, I’ll keep reading.  If I have to know what happens next, I will think about the story until I can get back to it.  Story by itself isn’t enough.  I think that there are stories in everything.  Plot is what makes them compelling.  The difference between these two might be summed up by this quote:

A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.

A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.

(The quote is from Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft 5th ed. Longman, 2000, by Janet Burroway, and paraphrases E.M. Forster.)

The best history gives us both story and plot.  The most boring history simply gives us the story of what happened.  So I can fully agree with this quote.  I forgive a lot when a plot sucks me in and makes me want to read until I can’t keep my eyes open or I’m finished, whichever comes first.

But what about characters?  What if you have a great plot, but you’ve put the most boring characters in it that you can imagine?  Is it still compelling?

I would suggest that you need both.  Plot is first, but the characters cannot be cardboard cutouts.  This is not to say that everyone needs to be a superhero, or a CIA spy, or something like that.  In fact, in my opinion, there is something compelling about reading a character who is ordinary.  Someone about whom you as a reader might say, “I know people like this guy or girl.” That’s what works for me.

Great characters with a less-than-compelling plot will be less readable, for me, than a great plot with okay characters.  You have to care about the characters, but you also have to be interested in the situation they find themselves in.

The third important element for me is setting.  I’ve often felt that setting can almost act as another character in a novel.  Stephen King does that as good as anyone.  As I read his early novel SALEM’S LOT, I came to know the community of Jerusalem’s Lot as well as I knew Ben Mears or Barlow or any of the other characters in the book.  It’s the same with other King novels as well.  Castle Rock and Derry became almost-characters in King’s fiction, staple settings that worked for multiple stories, and their quirks and their denizens were almost as important as the actual characters.

That said, setting as an element of fiction falls to third in importance.  While masterful description of setting is a huge asset to a story, a generic setting doesn’t kill said story IF the characters and the plot are there.

When I review books, I tend to try to look at them in this manner.  I try to mention all three of these elements in the review, and discuss whether they were great, good or average.  (If they’re bad, I usually don’t bother reviewing the book.  I usually don’t like to say anything bad about a book.  The exception is those authors, like King, Koontz, Coben, etc etc, who have a track record, and whose works I find myself comparing to other works by themselves and not so much to other works by other authors.  Often, I think that a second tier King or Coben novel is better than some novels which I’ve given high marks to, but how can I rate UNDER THE DOME or THE WOODS the same as the best novels by those authors?)

So in summary, for me, it’s:

  1.   PLOT
  3.   SETTING

So why can’t I seem to finish DROOD by Dan Simmons, whose works I normally love?  I don’t think it’s the characters or the setting, so it must be the plot.  Unless the pacing is dragging it down so far for me that I can’t seem to bring myself to resume reading it…  Length can be daunting, and if you don’t see an end in sight, it can be hard to pick up something that’s really dragging for you.  The aforementioned books by King and Hill both have that issue with length.

But maybe that’s a discussion for a different day, and a different post.

Also, there is the promise that a book makes as I read it.  If it doesn’t live up to that promise; if it ends up being something other than what I believe it is based on the promise it makes with its descriptions, its cover, its early chapters, even its characters and setting…again, maybe that is a different post.  And is about as close as I can get to craft, since I’m a far more accomplished reader than I am a writer (whether I’m a critical enough reader is debatable, but it is what it is…)

Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t done so, go buy one of my books and see if I live up to the things I talk about in this post.  :-)




Giveaway results

It isn’t the first time I’ve given JACK’O’LANTERN (and other stories) away.  But it’s a Halloween story, and I think it’s pretty good.   The title story was published on a magazine/blog site called “Friendly Fiction” a few years back, and the site’s editor had a go at it, suggesting changes.  I made several at that time, and ignored a few that I disagreed with.  The result was a fairly tight story.  I connected it with two other Holiday stories, THE MOMENT (about a junior high student who finally finds the courage to ask his crush to dance at the school Halloween mixer, through the anonymity of a costume) and SARAH’S PUPPY (where a little girl hears the barking of a puppy that she’s hoping she’ll get for Christmas and meets a bearded stranger by the tree in her living room), because all of them feature younger children and holidays, even though only the title story is horror.

So, for Halloween, I decided to give it away again.  What the heck? I thought.  Maybe someone will like the stories enough to buy the collection that it’s also a part of, 14 DARK WINDOWS(No one did.)  But I also put in sample chapters of both of my $0.99 novellas, THE INN and THE CAVE.  My hope is that someone will read the three short stories, read the sample chapters and be interested enough to check out the novellas.  Maybe realize that they’re bargain basement priced at $0.99, and will buy one or both.

As it turns out, I did sell one copy of THE INN during the giveaway.  Whether it was because of the short story giveaway, who knows?

All in all, I gave away something like 33 copies of the collection, which is back up to $0.99 today.  Would I buy it myself for $0.99?  No.  I’d spend that same $0.99 and buy the collection mentioned above.  I clearly state as the first line in the story trio’s description that it is part of that collection and that the collection also costs only $0.99.

The pattern was something like this:  Thursday, 8 free copies were downloaded, with virtually no promotion besides mentioning it on Facebook.  And I think the downloads occurred before I even made the Facebook post.  On Friday, 6 free copies.  Saturday, only 1 copy was downloaded.  I posted pictures later on Friday of my own pumpkin carvings on my Scott Dyson page, with another link to the giveaway title.  On Sunday the number went back up to 5 free downloads.

Then on Monday, I thought to mention it on Goodreads, in a group I lurk within called Horror Afficionados.  As a direct result of that mention, 13 more copies were downloaded.  More to the point, they were downloaded by people who like horror, if I can safely assume that those who read the post in the promotion topic on the bulletin board.  I can only hope that they get around to reading them and like the sample chapters enough to try my novellas.

So the promotion is done for now.

I’ve been thinking about a topic for a post soon about how I personally rank the elements of a novel when I’m reading it.  Still thinking about how to organize it.

Till then, have a great day.


JACK’O’LANTERN (and THE MOMENT and SARAH’S PUPPY) free on 10/29!

In honor of Halloween, I’ve made my short story trio containing JACK’O’LANTERN, THE MOMENT and SARAH’S PUPPY free for five days, starting Thursday, 10/29/15, till Monday, 11/2/15.  It’s been free before, but this time it contains sample chapters from my novellas THE INN and THE CAVE.

Jackolantern updated cover

All three stories are also found in the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS, which is priced at only $0.99 and will continue to be priced there for the foreseeable future.

Grab it while it’s free! If you like it, grab something else as well! Thanks for reading!


About THE INN…

My book THE INN now has 4 reviews (three of which have text), all 5-star ratings.  J. Michael Major, author of ONE MAN’S CASTLE, had this to say about it:

Talk about the band trip from hell! Young and beautiful student teacher Kimberly Bouton rides along with the high school band from Minnesota to Alabama. But one of the stops along the way is an inn where creepy things have started to occur. Miss Bouton and other band members wake up sore and with headaches. Is someone at the inn abusing the women in their sleep? Dyson cleverly weaves a great tale with events in the news that quickly escalate out of control. Filled with twists and turns, you won’t want to put this one down!

(Check out his book, for a good serial killer book that focuses on some interesting issues!)

Another reader identified as “Anne” posted this about the book:

Really enjoyed this short but scary read. Extremely well-written — and difficult to put down. The characters were compelling, and the suspense was thrilling. A perfect story for a night by the fire.

It was nice to hear that a reader thought it was extremely well-written. I try…

And finally, Steven M. Moore, author of too many books to count, including his latest, FAMILY AFFAIRS, wrote this about it on his blog:

Scott Dyson, author (Deadlock Press, 2015).  Is this the longest story I’ve read by Mr. Dyson?  It’s a novella, and there’s a lot of horror, mystery, suspense, and thrills in these few pages.  I loved it, and It’s not a genre I often read (the horror part).  No zombies, vampires, or werewolves (thank God!), just one seemingly ordinary human being doing horrible things to other human beings.  Some scenes reminded me of Hayton’s novel Breathe and Release reviewed here and that real life atrocity with the three girls in Ohio.

The band director, his student teacher (a woman not much older than the students), and the band are on a road trip.  They plan to perform and then spend a day at a nearby amusement park, crashing two nights in the inn.  I can’t say much more without writing spoilers, but I will send out a warning: if you were a member of a high school band, any nostalgia might fly out the window as your read this.  Or, some readers might say, “This is a lot more exciting than our band trips were.”  Mr. Dyson’s writing is fresh and original.  Fans of the genre will enjoy this one. (Rating?  How would you rate the TV show Dexter?)

So there are three very positive reviews of THE INN.  Thanks to those reviewers for taking the time to read and review it!

Here’s another from Mit Sandru, author of the VLAD vampire series and TIME HOLE, among others:

This is another fine novel written by Scott Dyson. While reading I had to remind myself that I wasn’t reading a Stephen King or Dean Koontz horror novel, but and equally well written book by Scott.

I love it! I’ve been compared to King and Koontz! Two of the best ever, in my opinion!

I thought I’d toss some stuff up here about the background of writing THE INN.  I flew through it; the story seemed to write itself.  I went back and added in the material about St. Louis and the store where my main character purchases the flute pendant after the first draft was completed.  I tried to give a little more depth to the parent-chaperones, who were barely mentioned in the first draft.  And I fleshed out a few of the students a bit more in the narrative, making them more than just names that passed by in the story.

The idea to write it came after I finished a book called TEXT MESSAGE by William Malmborg.  In that book, Malmborg describes a college student who loses her younger sister at the mall, and then begins receiving text messages from her sister’s phone telling her to do embarrassing things (mostly of a sexual nature) or bad things will happen to the sister.  When the girl refuses, the bad guy (girl?) texts a photo of the sister with a finger cut off.  So the girl follows instructions to the letter, and…well, it goes on from there.

I thought, after reading it, that I could probably write something similar, and started thinking about storylines.  I thought of a motel or an inn (instead of a school or a mall) where bad things happen, and then I flashed back to a recurring concern I have when I’m in a motel room — that somehow they have surveillance cameras in the rooms.  I mean, how would you know unless you start tearing the room apart?

It so happened that band trips came to mind, and I combined the two things — a band trip to a motel with something of that nature in some of the rooms.  I recalled certain things about my own band trips as a high school student, and about more current band trips and how they are organized, and out came the story.

It ended up being something around 37,000 words, give or take.  After about six months of polishing, getting input from my beta reader, and repolishing, I finally came up with an idea for the cover.  I searched out images that would fit what I was picturing, and I think what I came up with is pretty close to my original idea.

It hasn’t sold well…two copies in October and eleven copies in September, at least at (not sure about the other Amazons in the UK or other countries), but it’s been getting some KU page reads — over a thousand last month and over five hundred so far this month.  My shorter novella THE CAVE (about 25,000 words) has been read in KU a few times as well, although it has only sold one copy in two months.

So that’s the long story behind THE INN.  I’m currently working on a long version of ODD MAN OUT, and am polishing a couple of other things that are done.

Looking forward to getting some more things out.  Till then, try one of my other books!  They’re still all only $0.99, which is a huge bargain.  (THE INN is going to go up to $1.99 soon…)

Oh, and do yourself a service and read FAMILY AFFAIRS, TIME HOLE, and ONE MAN’S CASTLE.  All three are excellent books!



A weekend of writing, playing and Cubs!

I tend to write this blog as conversationally as I can — like I’m talking to a friend.  So even though I’m probably not talking to too many people (I really don’t know how many visitors I get because I’ve never set up that JetPack thing) I figured I’ll continue in this style and drop a quick note about my weekend.

Every year a group of friends heads up to northern Wisconsin for a weekend of playing music and enjoying the water (if it’s warm) and the colors (if it’s late enough and conditions are favorable) and eating and drinking and just relaxing.  This past weekend was that weekend, and I went up there for the first time in about 4 years.  Besides playing (I do keyboards, guitar and a bit of drums) I took some time to write.  Sometimes I even got in a couple of hours of writing in the day.

I got in enough writing that I actually finished a YA/MG novel I started with my son a long time ago.  As I reread, I note places that need to be filled in, but I haven’t even started with that.  I’m just trying to get a sense of whether the story holds together.

It’s interesting that two of the projects I’ve finished are two of my longest projects and both started in my son’s imagination — not in my own imagination.  I honestly think that his imagination is a lot better than mine.  Whenever I hit a snag, I’d ask him where it was going.  He’d sometimes come up with something so out-there and off-course that I’d veto it.  But usually he’d give me a sense of what he saw happening and it would work.  He’ll be getting co-writing credits on both of these, though, due to the nature of some of my horror, I may use a different name for this stuff.  It’s a complete departure from the horror I write.  Not sure I want any overlap on readership.  I won’t keep either a secret.  The pen-name will have a menu header up at the top, I think, and I’ll post something every time I add a page to it, but I’ll try to keep them as separate as I can.

Oh, and we watched a Cubs loss and a Cubs victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.  After two more victories at home, we’ve vanquished the Cards and we’re in the NLCS for the first time since 2003, and that was the first time in history that we’d been in that position.  Can’t wait to see if Back To The Future 2 was accurate in its prediction!


“Bob said,” versus “said Bob.”

I’m wondering if readers even notice this.  I know that I didn’t until it was pointed out to me in the editing phase of my story “Playing Man” (which was published in QUANTUM ZOO).  I was informed by D.J. Gelner, my editor (who did an outstanding job, by the way) that the convention was to place the dialog tag at the end of the sentence, and it should be “Bob said,” instead of “said Bob.”  For example:

“I really want to try playing that Beatles song,” Rich said.

“Which one?  There are a million of them!” Peter said.

“Let’s do them all,” Carter suggested.

Is that qualitatively better than the alternative:

“I really want to try playing that Beatles song,” said Rich.

“Which one?  There are a million of them!” said Peter.

“Let’s do them all,” suggested Carter.

To me, they both read the same.  I read the tag and it vaguely registers as an identification of the speaker.  After being informed of the accepted (or proper?) way to write it, I started noticing, and while most fiction, especially indie fiction, does it the “right” way, Orson Scott Card’s book RUINS mixed them up indiscriminately.  And so do I, in most of my fiction.  As I read my short stories and longer works, I find both forms used, with no rhyme or reason to the usage except for the rhythm of the words in my head.

In other words, if it sounded right one way, I wrote it that way.  And vice versa.

I don’t know if it is “wrong” to do it that way, so I’ve been trying to make everything conform to D.J.’s rules.  But if I miss one, forgive me.


Nanowrimo — Knock out 50K words in November’s 30 days!

It seems like such a cool challenge:  write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month.  That’s almost 1700 words a day.  Not bad if you’re Dean Wesley Smith, who routinely writes a bunch of words every day.  But for me, it isn’t going to happen.  I could probably knock out a short story or two, but no way am I going to get 50K words written in a month.  Not the way I write.

I get a story idea, and I plow into it.  I have a dozen stories started on my USB drive that I carry around between office and home, and some of them will never get finished because they won’t go anywhere.  (And some just flow right out like they were telling themselves.)  A lot of times I loose focus on a story, and don’t know where to go with it.  So I do one of two things.  I either go back to the beginning, rereading and rewriting as I go, or I move on to another story.  Either way, I’m taking away from that 1700 word goal.

Then there’s my schedule.  I simply don’t have the time to write every day.  I’m not a morning person in general, and I certainly don’t have enough focus to get up early and write.  I wouldn’t, even if I didn’t have kids going off to school.  (Not that I’m doing much besides offering support services; my wife does the heavy lifting with the morning rituals for them.)  I tend to write best in the later afternoon and evening.  I don’t know why; that’s when the words will flow.  And so I don’t get to do too much with that, either.

So Nanowrimo is not a realistic goal when you work full-time and have family obligations.  Especially if you’re a pantser, like I am, and not a plotter.  When I don’t know what I’m going to write, I probably won’t write much.  If I know where I’m going, I can crank out the words, but those days are not that common.

Anyway, good luck to those of you actually doing it.  Hope to read a novel or two from the project.


Hanging with my ol’ friend Alex…

I finished reading Jonathan Kellerman’s KILLER, an “Alex Delaware” psychological thriller novel, yesterday.  The story grabbed me and I came to a point where I couldn’t put it down.

I feel like I’m reading about an old friend when I read Kellerman’s Delaware novels, and this one was no exception.  The familiar troika of Alex, gay police detective Milo Sturgis, and Alex’s significant other, Robin, are all present, as are a few bit players like Moe Reed and Petra Connor.  And the plot is familiar too:  A criminal case ties into Alex’s practice as a clinical psychologist.

If you’ve ever read any of these books, you know that Alex consults for the police, and Milo Sturgis is sort of a one-man police force due to some incriminating information he has over the current chief of police in Los Angeles.  Milo can do pretty much whatever he wants, and he has the best clear rate of any detective in L.A., thanks in no small part to the insights of his psychologist sidekick.  Alex also has varied experience ranging from hospital work to clinical therapy to court work to…well, he’s done a bit of everything, it seems, and he’s good at everything.  But through it all is a sense that he’s human, with human doubts and failings.  No superman sleuth here.  And there aren’t any special forces types waiting in the wings to bail them out if they get in over their heads.  I like that.   So many detectives have someone who is a little too tough to be believed, really, at their beck and call.  Not Alex.  He has Milo and a few other cops.  And Milo has Alex.

I also liked the voice that Kellerman uses in these first-person novels.  Alex is talking and thinking and telling the stories that make up the plot of these crime thrillers, and his voice is distinctive.  There’s a “clipped” feel to the writing that makes you know it’s Alex and not some other point of view (though I can’t really recall Kellerman altering the POV away from Alex in this series…but there’s a lot of books and maybe he has done so a time or two, shifting perhaps to Milo’s point of view).  You’re in Alex’s head, and it’s a comfortable and comforting place to be; a character who is confident in his skills but not omniscient or always right, and his discomfort when he thinks he’s been hoodwinked or something comes through and it feels right.

There was a point in the series where I felt Kellerman was “mailing it in” with these stories, that perhaps he had lost the passion for telling Delaware tales, but somewhere along the line, he got back on track (in my view) and these recent ones have been excellent.  This one is no exception.

This book starts with Alex talking about a woman walking into his office and making a thinly veiled threat to shoot him right then and there.  Needless to say, it spooks Alex, but he convinces himself that it wasn’t much of a threat and he doesn’t need to inform the police. At this point, he flashes back to the case in question, one where a woman (the woman who threatened him) wants to use the legal system to take her sister’s child away from her, using her considerable resources to hire “experts” and high-powered attorneys.  Alex is brought in by the judge, and he supports the child’s mother.  The judge agrees with him, and the case is resolved in that manner.  The woman, not accustomed to losing, makes her threats.  Alex informs the judge of what happened, and that is, he hopes, the end of it.

When Milo and another cop show up on his doorstep a short time later, Alex learns that the woman has tried to take out a contract to have Alex (and perhaps the judge, as well) killed.  The hit goes to a Hispanic gang, and it so happens that Alex had some dealings with this kid when he was a young diabetic who wasn’t following medical advice.  Alex made an impression, and as luck would have it, this kid, now a young adult and fully involved in the gang, really likes Alex and prevents the hit at the gang level, and in fact, goes to the cops.  Lucky break for Alex.  Once again, Alex feels the brush of death against him, how close he came, if not for this serendipitous relationship with a gang member in days gone past.

But the woman turns up dead, and guess who’s the prime suspect?  No, it isn’t Alex.  It’s the sister, who appears to have left town the very night of that murder.  Milo’s sure it was the sister who did it; everything seems to line up.  Motive, opportunity, and then the flight.  But Alex is so sure that he couldn’t have been wrong about her…and once again, Alex faces something that shakes his outward confidence.  You can feel his internal discomfort as you read these sections, as he tries to project calm and confidence outward.  But Robin knows, and so does Milo.

I was less than thrilled with the resolution of the case.  It worked, but I was hoping for something a little…less out of left field, I guess.  I won’t say more.  It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it did make me wish that there had been a more elegant solution to the mystery presented; that is, where was the sister, who killed the woman who threatened him, and what happened to the baby.

A good, quick, fun read that kept me sucked in for a day and a half with non-stop reading at night, in the morning, and finally, between patients and over lunch until I finished.  Looking forward to the next one when it hits the bargain shelves at Barnes and Noble.