When it comes to books, I’m not the most adventurous consumer. Over the years I’ve discovered enough authors I like who have solid outputs that I’m pretty well set when it comes to the book department. I’ve also got a huge backlog of books in my to-read piles and bins thanks to sales at various stores, most of which are out of business. But, one of the interesting things about moving into the world of e-books is the Amazon system put in place that either suggests other offerings you might like or gives you a great deal on semi-related novels. That’s how I came to own a digital copy of Bobby Cole’s The Dummy Line. While in Michigan over Christmas, I decided to travel light, take the Kindle and decided to give this book a shot. I’ve been casually reading it since, but finished it over the weekend.
The story focuses on Jake Crosby, a turkey hunter heading to a hunting property with his daughter for a weekend of shooting. Once they get there they run afoul of some ruthless local hoodlums and things quickly get dangerous. They’re not the only ones in the area though as a pair of local teenagers also get wrapped up in the conflict. Before long the police start investigating and scramble to figure out exactly what’s going on as an increasingly confusing series of events make themselves known to the authorities.
I was pretty much on board with this thriller from the get go because it features a normal guy trying to get away for the weekend with his little girl who realizes he needs to make some tough decisions to keep them both safe. That’s an easy in for me as a dad, even if the idea of going to a remote cabin to shoot birds is not something I feel the need to do.
I also enjoyed the way Cole bounces from player to player in this drama. You’re not just with Jake — which would have been exhausting — but also his pursuers, the teenagers, the cops and various other characters. This not only mixes things up to alleviate tension, but also shows how various events can be correctly and erroneously misinterpreted by various parties. Too often I see stories where everyone can figure out exactly what’s going on and that seems too unrealistic. For me it was as interesting seeing the cops try to figure out what’s happening as actually experiencing those moments firsthand with Jake.
But it’s not a perfect book, not that I would expect as much from a first novel. My biggest problem with this book was the proliferation of clunky prose. One of the tricks I learned early on as a writer is to read your work out loud to see if it sounds natural to your ear and not just your brain. It seems to me like this step might have been skipped in the process because there are some overly complicated ways of saying simple things in this book. I didn’t feel like this on every single page, but it happened enough from beginning to end that it stuck out to me.
I also wasn’t a fan of the early chapters in the book when the villains were introduced. As a dad, I felt easily manipulated by these grown men who had no problem harming a child in any manner of awful ways. But, I also realized that they were presented as very one-note characters right off the bat. These are bad, bad dudes with no conscious who faithfully follow the most cunning of their ilk. And, for the most part, that stuck throughout the book, though I was happy to see one of them go to great lengths to stop some pretty bad stuff from happening.
In the process of reading The Dummy Line, I was listening to an episode of the horror podcast Killer POV and I had an interesting thought. On the episode, one of the hosts was talking about seeing an early movie by a filmmaker, noting some parts where they didn’t do so hot, but also looked forward to seeing what their next project would display as far as growth. This got me thinking about Dummy Line because it’s also by a relatively new creative person. It’s not a perfect offering, but it sure is good and got me interested enough to eventually read his next book Moon Underfoot, which I also got on the cheap from Amazon. While I still enjoy reading all the authors I’ve come to know and love over the years, it’s also kind of exciting to get in on the ground floor with someone developing their craft and trying out this whole author thing, which I myself am trying for as well.