Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mystery Book Review: A Trout in the Sea of Cortez by John Salter

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of A Trout in the Sea of Cortez by John Salter. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.A Trout in the Sea of Cortez by John Salter

A Trout in the Sea of Cortez by John Salter
Non-series

Counterpoint Press (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-58243-342-9 (1582433429)
ISBN-13: 978-0-1-58243-342-4 (9781582433424)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $24.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): Dennis Pratt doesn't want to go to Mexico. He's a guy knocking on forty, with a dead-end job, a lukewarm marriage, a distant daughter, and an incredible lack of enthusiasm for anything in his life. So little wonder that he's not very enthusiastic about the trip south of the border his wife's got planned. And as he becomes increasingly convinced that his wife is having an affair with a local alpha-male, obsessive thoughts begin to take over his life, and Pratt finds himself putting his job and his marriage at risk. He befriends a shifty father and daughter who live in a camper near the country club where Pratt is trying to learn how to play golf. He meets a mysterious artist and may or may not be falling in love with her. And his imagination runs wild about his wife and daughter. Only when en route to Mexico, and at their villa in Los Cabos on the Sea of Cortez, do the pieces start to fall into place, with disastrous results.

A quirky cocktail of obsession, adultery, revenge, hazardous waste, golf, murder, fatherhood, and love, A Trout in the Sea of Cortez is a smart, sarcastic, and riveting mid-life crisis murder mystery.

Review: A Trout in the Sea of Cortez is John Salter's first full-length novel, and while it might not be categorized as a murder mystery by most definitions, it is an interesting if somewhat over-long work of fiction.

Read as a mystery, the first three-quarters of the book represent the background material. The principal character is Dennis Pratt, a part-time hazardous waste employee, married to an apparently successful mortgage broker, with a daughter in college, living near Fargo. Pratt smokes too much, he drinks too much, and he suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but none of these concern him as much as believing his wife of almost 20 years is having an affair. She has lost a lot of weight, has whipped her body into shape, and seems to be spending a little too much time with the local dentist.

Then there's the case of the missing mercury. Though his company doesn't handle highly toxic metal, he accepts $500 to take it anyway, thinking he can come up with a way to dispose of it. Striking a deal with the father of a girl who's selling used balls on the course where he plays golf, he discovers the mercury missing when he tries to buy it back. Worse for Pratt, the man is found murdered on the golf course and his daughter has vanished.

And so begins the mystery, soon after Pratt and his wife, together with three other couples and, no surprise, the dentist and his girlfriend, have arrived in the resort area of Los Cabos in Baja California, Mexico. The authorities in Fargo suspect Pratt of the murder, and the fact that he has apparently fled to Mexico seems proof of his guilt. Though the denouement isn't all that original, it cleverly unfolds in a way that may take the reader by surprise.

Salter has tried to combine two books in A Trout in the Sea of Cortez, and has generally succeeded. There's the well-written novel about a troubled family man, a husband and father who loves his wife and daughter, but is having difficulty adjusting to middle age. Then there's a murder mystery, really just a short story but a good one, that's been well integrated into the novel. As a mystery reader, one might have hoped for a little less of the former and a little more of the latter, but it's definitely worthwhile seeking this book out.

Special thanks to John Salter for providing a copy of A Trout in the Sea of Cortez for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Technorati tags: mystery books blogs, , , , . Omnimystery keyword(s) referenced: los cabos, cabo san lucas., golf

1 comment:

  1. A male midlife crisis mystery would be a perfect holiday gift for my readers. I'll go announce it now. Enjoyed your honest review as I am an avid mystery book reader.

    ReplyDelete

 

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