“ Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Doug Richardson / Paperback / 354 Pages / Book is published 2011-12 by Velvet Elvis Entertainment „
Ben Keller is a dull but dependable chap who runs a safety consultancy in California. His life - both professionally and personally - is characterised by the avoidance of risk but it was not always so. His past as a successful restaurateur was torn apart by the murder of his wife and baby daughters. After years of therapy and following his marriage to his second wife Alex, Ben thinks he has his life under control and believes that he has moved on. Then suddenly he receives a package containing a CD. It has come from a woman he doesn't know, the daughter of a convicted felon who has recorded a deathbed testimony revealing that he shared a cell with the man who killed Ben's family. He names that man and Ben has to make a life-changing decision - to try to find the man who ruined his life or to leave his past behind.
As you can imagine, if he'd opted to ignore the recording and move on there wouldn't be much to fill 341 pages.
~You've gotta have friends~
Ben enlists the help of single-mum copper Lydia 'Gonzo' Gonzales and a private detective called Woody. Woody is a 400 pound paraplegic in a souped-up wheelchair and a custom painted 'passion wagon' and quite possibly the least 'undercover' sleuth he could find but he's good. Woody tracks down Stew Raymo, the man identified by the dying convict and Ben has to make another decision; to contact the man or to walk away. He tells himself that if he can shake the hand of this man, look him in the eyes, he'll 'know' if this is who killed his family. He meets him and all too rapidly neither man can turn back or stop their lives falling apart.
At times we're not sure what to believe. We wonder if this is a case of mistaken identity but soon it becomes almost irrelevant whether Stew did it or not as he 'deals' with the people investigating him in violent and creative ways. We learn there's a different side to the alleged killer - a past of alcoholism and drugs and a present of sobriety, hard work, and marriage to a beautiful ex-porn star. Both Stew and Ben have new lives and a lot to lose. We wonder if either can stop themselves before they push the self-destruct button just once too often.
~Not my normal type of book~
When a parcel arrived all the way from the USA I was surprised to find that my copy of The Safety Expert hadn't come from a publisher's office. It was sent by the author himself along with a polite letter asking me to review it and saying that he'd published it himself. I have to be honest that my first thought was something along the lines of "Oh no, not another self-published novel for which I'm going to have to work really hard to come up with something nice to say". I needn't have worried as this book is in no way inferior to plenty of books I've read by much more well-known and established authors. I was expecting a rather weak plot or poorly developed characters - I was completely wrong and I needn't have worried at all. If I've got the self-publishing angle wrong, I really do hope that Doug or his wife will pop by and leave a message to put me straight.
I used to read quite a lot of books in this genre but have mostly given up on them the last couple of years. I enjoyed stepping back into the world of intrigue and destruction. A little bit of murder and mayhem isn't a bad thing now and then (so long as it's only on the written page). The pace of the book was a little bit slow at first but soon picked up and by half way through it was zipping along. There are some fabulously described car crashes and violent attacks. There are just enough side stories to give the characters the required depth to add layers of complexity to their decisions and their actions.
I can honestly say that this book can hold its own against books by writers like James Patterson.
Although the violence is quite graphic, I was very happy that it didn't get sick or kinky. One of the reason I stopped reading these kind of books was that I was getting nauseated by the violence against women that characterised so many of them. Thankfully there's none of that in here. The Safety Expert lacks the twists and turns of writers like Jeffrey Deaver (the only writer of this genre that I still read) but that in itself is not such a bad thing. We're not led down blind alleys and then sent off in new directions - we just follow a natural direction that's altogether more believable for its relative simplicity. I've become very irritated by writers trying to fool us or distract us and there's something quite endearing about the straightforward progression of the plot. It's a story of two men - pure and simple - and without the distractions that spoil so many suspense books, I enjoyed the chance to think seriously about guilt and innocence and where blame lies.
The only suggestion I would offer to the writer is that his chapters are exceptionally long for this type of book and I believe that breaking things up into smaller chunks would appeal more to the typical suspense fans, the type who like to string a book like this out over many weeks, reading just a handful of pages each night before falling asleep. I don't need that short choppy style, but I think some of the readership would prefer it.
I have since found out a little more about the author, Doug Richardson, and it all now makes sense. He's a very accomplished screenwriter whose credits include working on the Die Hard films and 'Bad Boys'. I'm in awe - I adore the Die Hards and fast action films of that type. I've no idea why Richardson has self-published and I can only assume it's his choice to do so. It's hard to imagine there isn't a publisher out there just waiting for his books.
My copy was arranged through www.curiousbookfans.co.uk where an earlier version of this review can be found. Thanks to both the author and CBF.