Friday, January 04, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Brother's Keeper by Steven Owad

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Brother's Keeper by Steven Owad. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Brother's Keeper by Steven OwadBuy from
Brother's Keeper by Steven Owad

RendezVous Crime (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-894917-59-6 (1894917596)
ISBN-13: 978-1-894917-59-9 (9781894917599)
Publication Date: October 2007
List Price: $13.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Vince Maguire has spent the last decade as a journalist in Warsaw. A club-hopping dance addict, he isn't big on self-awareness. The ease ends when the dark world of his estranged brother intrudes. Teddy has fallen in with criminals who are trying to kill American oil executives in Warsaw. Vince finds himself framed for an attempted hit. While evading the Polish cops and seeking leads to Teddy's whereabouts, it strikes him that his lost relationship with Teddy is only one aspect of a greater loss. How did he get to a point where his dreams no longer mattered? How did Teddy get to a point where his "friends" could kill without hesitation? The answers appear to lie in the frozen oilfields of northern Alberta, a new Wild West where the normal rules of behavior don't apply.

Review: Steven Owad has crafted a suspenseful tale of secrets and betrayal with a bit of a hard-boiled edge in Brother's Keeper.

The story opens in Poland with journalist Vince Maguire, an ex-patriate New Yorker living in Warsaw, getting a call from his brother Teddy, someone he hasn't seen or spoken to in years. Teddy will be arriving in Poland on the following day. Both excited and wary, Vince goes to the airport but instead of seeing his brother, is met by Marty Forlani, a friend of Teddy's. Marty says Teddy's been delayed and Vince reluctantly agrees to put Marty up for the night. But later that evening, Marty virtually kidnaps Vince, forcing him to participate in a botched murder attempt that leaves Marty dead instead. Fearing he'll be implicated in the crime, Vince flees Poland for Alberta, Canada, where Marty was living and where Vince believes he'll find his brother and, hopefully, answers to why he was dragged into a ruthless murder.

Brother's Keeper is a fast-paced thriller, written (at least initially) with short, clipped sentences and sentence fragments giving the plot a sense of urgency. The author fills the narrative with descriptive details and noir-ish similes painting Warsaw as cold, bleak, and gray ... not unlike Vince's life in his adopted home. The confusion that Vince feels, being part of an attempted murder gone terribly wrong, is credible yet his journalistic instincts tell him there's more, far more to this story. When Vince gets to Alberta, the descriptions of its snow-covered vastness seem to convey an image of a blank page, where the next chapter in Vince's life will be penned.

This is a very well constructed, plotted, and written novel, though there are a few points that don't quite ring true. Vince has very little cash when he leaves Poland and cannot use a credit card for fear of being tracked, yet is able to purchase airfare from Germany to Alberta, rent hotel rooms and cars, and pay for other travel expenses without difficulty. The action, or in some cases inaction, of a few of the characters seem "out-of-character" and arbitrary. And, in an ironic way, as Vince gets stronger in his convictions and manner, the writing gets weaker and loses some of its edge. But these, together with a few loose plot threads in the end, are all minor quibbles that don't detract from this exceptionally compelling novel.

Special thanks to Steven Owad for providing a copy of Brother's Keeper for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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