A DEAD RED HEART
By R. P. Dahlke
Dead Bear Publishing
I love it when a book gives me a unique main character with an interesting past. In A DEAD RED HEART, Rebecca Dahlke gave me Lalla Bains, a spunky, forty-year-old former New York runway model, twice-divorced, who returned home to Modesto, California, to help her ailing father with his equally ailing crop dusting business. Now, four years later, Lalla is still there as one of the pilots as well as manager of the entire operation.
I also love it when a story opens with an intriguing situation. A DEAD RED HEART begins with Lalla in a dark alley and a man sprawled across her feet with a pair of scissors imbedded in his chest.
From there, the story careens full speed ahead with complications and risks falling around Lalla like lopsided dominoes. Never a shy wallflower, she meets everything coming at her with the same fervor and wit that have marked her adventurous life. The story is told in Lalla’s voice and there are bits of refreshing and irrepressible humor, even in the worst situations.
There’s a lively cast of supporting characters and several of them, along with Lalla herself, are suspects in the murder of the man in the alley, Billy Wayne Dobson. Sheriff Caleb Stone, who desperately wants to marry Lalla, supports her, but there are times when she’s not sure he’s being completely honest with her. Detective Rodney Gayle harbors a grudge against Lalla and wants to pin the murder on her from the start.
Another detective, a gorgeous younger redhead, wants to help Lalla relieve the stress she’s under, or does she really want to relieve her of Caleb? An old high school friend also wants to help, but it seems she has a few secrets to hide. Add an obnoxious and relentless tabloid-style reporter who sticks his nose in Lalla’s life for reasons of his own, and Lalla is surrounded by people who may be friends or who may be the killer.
Lalla’s father is content to let her run the crop dusting business, being busy himself lounging in front of his TV when he’s not attending wakes and funerals with hopes of hooking up with lonely widows. He drags Lalla to one of those wakes where Billy Wayne Dobson’s mother attacks her first with a loaded purse, then with a loaded gun.
Rebecca Dahlke keeps this story moving forward at a fast pace, but weaves all the pieces together in a seamless and entertaining manner. You’re sure to fall in love with Lalla Bains as I did and come away from this book anxious to read the first in the series, A DEAD RED CADILLAC, and the soon-to-be-released next one, A DEAD RED OLEANDER.
Reviewed by Earl Staggs © 2012
Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews.He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com