Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Misdirection: The Rusty Diamond Trilogy Book 1

TAuthor:  Austin Williams
Genre:  Thriller/Suspense

Four Stars
 
A street magician needs more than sleight-of- hand to survive getting embroiled in a murder case in this blistering novel of suspense.
 
After years of chasing fame and hedonistic excess in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rusty "The Raven" Diamond has returned home to Ocean City to piece his life back together. When he finds himself an innocent suspect in his landlord's brutal murder, Rusty abandons all hope of maintaining a tranquil existence. Acting on impulse, he digs into the investigation just enough to anger both the police and a local drug cartel.
As the unsolved case grows more complex, claiming new victims and inciting widespread panic, Rusty feels galvanized by the adrenaline he's been missing for too long. But his newfound excitement threatens to become an addiction, leading him headfirst into an underworld he's been desperately trying to escape.
Austin Williams creates an unforgettable protagonist in Rusty, a flawed but relatable master of illusion in very real danger. As the suspense builds to an explosively orchestrated climax, Williams paints a riveting portrait of both a city-and a man-on the edge.

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Rusty "The Raven" Diamond has returned to Ocean City, Maryland after years away.  Several of those were spent performing in Las Vegas as a magician.  When he finally returns home, he discovers his landlady dead, her throat apparently ripped out.  After being cleared by the police, he returns to her house and discovers something else:  an empty prescription bottle that once contained lidocaine, and a baggie that once contained drugs, something so powerful it causes hallucinations and violent acts.  Convinced this has something to do with his landlady's death, and the police not acting on any tips he gives them, Rusty sets out to find where the drugs come from and who is manufacturing them.
 
First the bad: I didn't understand the fact that no one knew who he was.  As a Las Vegas resident, when you mention the name Criss Angel, people across the country pretty much know he's a headliner in Las Vegas.  So why wouldn't they recognize the name Rusty Diamond from Caesar's?  Also, there's a Caesar's in Atlantic City (not too far from Ocean City) and I would think there'd be ads for their sister property.  Especially with his look; Criss Angel has a similar look and people recognize him.  But I guess if you live in Maryland you have no idea what's going on in the world.  You can't headline in Las Vegas and expect to remain anonymous.  (Even if his cop friend Jim never visited Las Vegas, chances are that one of his coworkers did and probably saw the marquee with his name on it - if you're a headliner, your name is on the marquee.)  That bothered me, also the fact that his friend Jim didn't know what he'd been doing since he left.  Again, he's a cop - he knew Rusty's parents worried about him, but he never thought to look him up or find out anything about him?  But yet Janice Garrett, the victim's niece, works at an advertising agency in Manhattan, and Rusty notes that if he recognized the name, it was recognizable all over the country.  Personally, I couldn't name any ad agency based in Manhattan, so why would everyone else in the country, but have no idea of who headlines in Las Vegas?  I have relatives on the east coast, and they know who's headlining in Las Vegas, but I'm sure they couldn't name a big New York ad agency - it's just not one of those things you commit to memory unless you do business with one.  (Yes, these are things that I think of when I review a book.).

He also does a very stupid thing somewhere toward the middle of the book - you know, as in the person who goes into the house and confronts the killer about what they've done while knowing it's the killer but doesn't tell anyone they're going to do it?  Yes, it's along those lines.  Something someone who is 'all there' wouldn't do in the real world.  But one gets the feeling Rusty isn't part of the real world: it's not that he has a death wish, exactly; it's that his feelings have numbed for reasons we're never told.

Now the good:  The book is well-thought out.  I myself wouldn't be attracted to Rusty, our unlikely hero.  He's on the grubby side, with long hair and a goatee.  He sort of looks like an escapee from a disbanded motorcycle gang.  (But some women go for that type of thing, I know.)  Anyway, there is no doubt he is a compelling protagonist:  He is brave, of that I am convinced.  He is also determined and has a strong moral compass - he will do whatever it takes to right a wrong.  Intellectual to a fault.  He can see what is behind peoples' motives, and he also has strong will power.  These attributes make him human and impressive.

That is what makes this a very good book.  The fact that as you read, pieces of Rusty are put together, almost like a puzzle.  And you are drawn to the pieces, wanting to know more about this man and his past.  The few glimpses we are given leave us needing to find out his history.

We are with him when he pieces together the murder, we watch him as he goes through his own thought processes and his actions, when he takes chances he shouldn't and wonder how he will escape (for we know beforehand he will, as protagonists do.)  Although there isn't a lot of fleshing out of the secondary characters, it doesn't seem to matter:  This is Rusty's book, by and far.  He is the central pin to the action, the one who gets things done.  He is the one we are interested in, and want to see find the answers.  And he does, even if it means skirting the law and doing it in his own way.

When you come to the conclusion of the book, you are left wanting more.   The scenes leading up to it are suspenseful and enticing, and you are drawn into the action, never knowing what is around the next corner.  Exactly what a suspense novel should be.  Recommended reading.
 
 

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