Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Keep It Real by Bill Bryan

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Keep It Real by Bill Bryan. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Keep It Real by Bill Bryan

Keep It Real by Bill Bryan

Bleak House Books (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-932557-31-8 (1932557318)
ISBN-13: 978-1-932557-31-2 (9781832557312)
Publication Date: May 2007
List Price: $13.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Ted used to be an investigative reporter—a good one. But that was before the divorce, the meltdown, the subsequent supervised visitation of his adorable little girl. Now he’s one of several peon producers for the inexplicably successful reality show, ‘The Mogul.’ Ted’s not a happy man. Unlike his viewers, he takes no joy in the vapid “reality” he helps edit together for ratings.

Then Ted inadvertently witnesses a violent exchange between gangsta rapper Boney and Boney’s hot-enough-to-dance-in-videos girlfriend, Patrice. When Patrice goes missing, it’s all Ted can do to keep his reporter instincts in check. With no real excuse for hanging out in the world of Cristal and grillz, Ted uses the resources at his disposal to snoop around. And what better way to invade a celebrity’s privacy than by featuring him on Reality TV?

Review: Bill Bryan's debut crime novel, Keep It Real, is a satirical and frequently funny blending of the behind-the-scenes production of a reality television show and a murder investigation.

Told in the first person present tense (which rarely works for mysteries, but seems appropriate here), Ted Collins is an investigative reporter who reluctantly admits that yes, he's won a "Pulie" (Pulitzer Prize), but that his currently employer doesn't hold it against him. Ted is a producer for the hit reality television series The Mogul starring billionaire Roger Dominus who is looking for an apprentice to work in his organization, and created by the king of reality TV himself, Trevor Bane. During a visit to his ex-wife to pick up their daughter, he overhears a conversation between the rapper Raymond Bonaparte ("Boney") and a model who is later found murdered. Suspecting Boney of the crime, Ted arranges for him to appear on The Mogul so that he can conduct his investigation without raising too much suspicion.

Subtle is not a word in author Bill Bryan's vocabulary. Roger Dominus is a thinly disguised version of Donald Trump; the Dominus casinos are in rather than Atlantic City and Dominus Tower is in Los Angeles rather than New York City, but the Dominus helicopter is the same. Trevor Bane is an even more transparent fictionalization of Mark Burnett. Bryan captures the public perception of the idiosyncrasies and excesses of these two men perfectly in his characters: there isn't anything Roger won't do to promote his identity and there isn't any product or service that Trevor isn't ready and able to make a buck off of. Anyone who watches reality television will be laughing at the outrageous manner in which it is portrayed here.

The murder mystery plays a supporting role here but does provide a unifying theme to the story. The resolution to the model's murder is beyond cynical, but in a perverse way is completely believable.

For a book that not only tests the boundaries of good taste but crosses over them regularly and repeatedly, Bryan is, ironically, a little too politically correct at times and tends to be a bit preachy especially when it comes to race relations. These minor objections aside, Keep It Real is a very funny look at the world of reality television with a bonus for mystery readers of having a murder to solve.

Special thanks to Authors on the Web for providing a copy of Keep It Real for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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