Lorene Robbins,
The Dead Detective
(Swimming Kangaroo, 2006)

Budge Dirkwood and CJ Thomas spend a lot of time together. While they just recently met, the two of them are trying to solve a murder-mystery. The twist, in this case, is that they are trying to solve Budge's murder.

You see, Budge, one evening, went to answer the door to his residence at the back of the pawn shop he owned and was shot point blank in the head. He never saw the perpetrator. CJ, a former beauty queen turned PC trouble shooter, showed up at Dirk's house to help him with a computer problem that night. She was the one who found the body.

Somehow, CJ can hear Budge's ghost. Consequently, Budge won't leave her alone until she helps solve the murder. Yes, the police are involved, but their interest lacks the zeal Budge has to resolve the case. And there are so many suspects! There is Budge's best friend Leo, Budge's sister and her loony husband, Budge's rich and obnoxious cousins, and the wife-beating husband who threatened Budge after his wife sold his belongings to Budge so she could escape her situation. I can't forget about the gang of hooligans that practically took up residence outside the shop.

There is just one major problem with this unlikely detective duo. CJ isn't exactly Laura Holt and Budge definitely isn't Remington Steele! It is true that CJ is analytical and knows how to work her looks to her advantage. But she has a big problem in that she doesn't believe in the paranormal, ghost notwithstanding. Budge, for his part, dabbled in the I Ching (which warned him about a big change coming his way) and is smart enough to be the best chess player he personally ever knew. But perhaps he is just a little too superstitious and a little too close to the case to be an effective detective.

The "author," Lorene Robbins, is actually a pseudonym. The Dead Detective has dual authors who happen to be husband and wife. The story locale as well as the authors' actual home is the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in Texas. They describe themselves as "determined skeptics" who do not believe in the paranormal world.

The book is a little shy of 300 pages. The writing style is such that a middle school child should have no trouble with it. However, I wouldn't recommend this book for that grade level since the subject matter deals with murder and one attempted rape scene. Still, whatever the age of the reader, this light novel can be enjoyed effortlessly without much thinking necessary. The plot is simple, the twists are few, and the dialogue is often witty without being too silly. It might be perfect for a couple-hour plane trip.

review by
Wil Owen

14 July 2007

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