Picks and Pans Review: Deal on Ice
Here's the deal: If you want to become a successful author of crime fiction, you'd better grab your laptop, hop on a plane and move to Florida, because thriller writers are springing up like condos down there. Now, with his fourth mystery featuring con-tractor-cum-detective John Deal, it is safe to add the name of Les Standiford to the ever-expanding list headed by the likes of Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall.
Standiford has hit his stride in Deal on Ice. After an attention-grabbing opening chapter set somewhere in the frozen Midwest, the scene shifts to Deal's home turf in South Florida,
where the owner of an independent bookstore—and close friend of Deal's—is murdered. Deal decides to investigate, and, before you can say double-knit trousers, people are being bludgeoned to death with golf clubs and hurtling out of 13th-floor hotel windows. Deal has to deal with a pair of dandy villains, as the story churns to a chilling conclusion in a Nebraska snowstorm.
While Standiford has picked an overworked target here—a crazed TV evangelist—his prose is serviceable, he. has a good ear for dialogue, and his action scenes crackle with intensity. In Deal, Standiford has created an engaging main character—hard-boiled, yes, but in deference to the '90s, soft around the edges. The odds are that Standiford will run out of catchy titles (he has already used Raw Deal and Done Deal) long before he runs out of readers for this fast-paced series. (HarperCollins, $23)