Thursday, April 08, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Water Hazard by Don Dahler

Mysterious Reviews: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Crime Novel Reviews, edited by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

A Huck Doyle Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-38353-3 (0312383533)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-38353-4 (9780312383534)
Publication Date: March 2010
List Price: $24.99

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Water Hazard by Don Dahler
Buy Water Hazard by Don Dahler

Review: Los Angeles private investigator and on-again/off-again golf pro Huck Doyle finds himself playing a practice round at a course near Honolulu when one of his playing partners slumps to the ground, not from a heart attack as originally thought, but from a gunshot wound to the back, in Water Hazard, the second mystery in this series by Don Dahler.

The dead man is Sing Ten Wong, father of one of Huck's law school buddies, and CEO of a prominent bank in Hawaii. What's most surprising about the crime is that the shooter had to have been positioned behind Wong, yet from Huck's perspective, there was nothing but ocean to be seen. Wong's executive assistant subsequently meets with Huck and asks him to investigate, leading him to discover no shortage of suspects who may have had a reason to see the bank executive not finish his round of golf alive.

Water Hazard is written in a rather unusual manner. There are, for instance, no "he said"s or "she said"s. In fact, not only are there no character references to indicate who says what, there aren't even quotation marks. Instead, all dialog is in the form of indented paragraphs. To distinguish it from standard paragraphs, all narrative is not indented. And all paragraphs have an extra line of white space between them. It takes a little getting used to, but somewhat surprisingly, it seems to work. The dialog is typically in the form of short sentences, not unlike natural speech, so it's fairly easy to follow, even without the "said"s. Here's a brief sample:

The voice was as silky as the jet black hair.

Manhattan, please.

I gave a nod to the barman, who returned the nod and got to work on the drink. My new friend held out a hand.

Lisa Tan.

Huck Doyle.

I know.

You know?

I'm with the bank. Mr. Ching asked me to meet with you.


Of course. And here I thought one of my groupies had caught up with me.

She smiled again, but it was that indulgent smile beautiful women pull out when they're deflecting a flirtatious comment.

That being said (so to speak), Water Hazard is, as a mystery, more superficial than substantial. It has all the requisite elements of a crime novel but lacks a sense of urgency, the competitive spirit, as it were. For example, one has the impression that almost as much time is devoted to discussing the game of golf as is investigating the murder of Wong. This may be no different in concept than what occurs in a crafty or culinary cozy, but for some reason it seems more casual, even leisurely, here. Still, the plot plays out well, the characters generally interesting and appealing. Readers looking for something a bit different and not too demanding in the way of a mystery to take along on vacation this summer may find Water Hazard to be a good choice.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of Water Hazard for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Golf is a game of consistency, and after too many missed fairways, missed putts, and missed cuts, Huck Doyle’s career as a Tour pro is on life support. The sometime private eye has lost his full-time PGA player status and is back to scraping it out on minor tournaments. So it’s only by the generosity of the father of an old law-school pal, Rick Wong, that Huck finds himself in paradise with a rare sponsor’s exemption, gearing up to play in the Sony Open in Hawaii. But when his benefactor keels over dead from a gunshot during a practice round, Huck is obligated to find out who killed the millionaire banker and pillar of the community. Is it the young wife? A competitor trying to stop a secret bank merger? Or was it an assassination ordered from some distant shores?

With his brother undergoing an experimental spinal-cord treatment and his relationship with a beautiful medical examiner showing some strain, Huck has more than enough on his mind as he tees off in a career-changing match. As the investigation carries him into the murky waters of international finance, computer encryptions, and the dark side of paradise, Huck finds himself playing the game of his life, on and off the golf course.

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