Received a copy of Southern Heat by David Burnsworth through the First Reads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review "The crowd that showed up could have come together only in a place
like Charleston. And could have only my uncle as the common
denominator. The owner of a million-dollar beach front house
traded vodka shots with a man from Brother Thomas's congregation
in the projects. Three Folly Beach surfers cornered several state
legislators and demanded they fix beach erosion. My personal
favorite encounter occurred when Mutt asked Detective Rogers
and Wilson if they had any weed. They pulled out their badges
and pretty much cleared the room, which was okay with me. It
was late. Good thing I'd left the gun in the safe."
Charleston, South Carolina is a city with a rich history, amazing architecture and home to some of the friendliest people in the country. The expression "my home is your home" should be the unofficial motto for Charleston. With respect to this novel some people just know no bounds.
Brack Felton is a well-meaning, good-natured but troubled soul. After losing the love of his life Jo to terminal cancer Brack has had a difficult time dealing with the pain and was in desperate need of an emotional outlet. On a crash course with death he decided that time served in Afghanistan would at least provide some sort of positive result while he was dealing with insurmountable grief. So he thinks, why not do something for my country and get killed along the way? 3 years later after volunteering and surviving some of the most ominous missions Brack is back home in Charleston. Suicidal thoughts have diminished to some degree he is now hoping to finally address his problems. But now, after returning home with a new way to cope with his problems he must get passed the battle of the bottle. After rescuing a mixed-breed dog named Shelby that rescues Brack as much as it was initially intended and getting back on the wagon, Brack's life finally looks like it is on the up-and-up. Then on one inconspicuous evening Brack's uncle Reginald "Reggie" Sails wants to meet up for a few drinks and catch up on life's recent happenings. As Brack exits the car he hears gunshots in the alleyway beside the bar, intuitively Brack rushes to the seen to observe his uncle and best friend Reggie lying dead on the ground. Undoubtedly shaken, and later arrested for the murder, his uncle's death may provide a vehicle for Brack to change his ways and start thinking of others rather than himself. "In Afghanistan, I'd been assigned to Recon and volunteered for
point every chance I got. With my wife gone, getting blown up
seemed like a good idea. The commanding officers mistook my
suicidal tendencies for leadership ability and promoted me. The
problem with my military plan turned out to be quick reflexes -
real quick reflexes. The kind that won car races, and fights."
This book was a tough one to grade. First off I must give the author a lot of credit for not indulging in the gratuitous language, sex, and violence that is commonplace within the noir genre. Now don't get me wrong, I love as much sex, language, and violence as the next person, but to keep a readers attention without it is quite a difficult task that the author managed to achieve. I also liked how Brack had a counterpart with as much sarcasm, charm and wit as him in Channel 9 News Reporter Darcy Wells. The time the two of them spent together was fun to read. Not to mention a protagonist with a hunger for justice but the need to satisfy the hunger of his peculiar dog is most definitely a play to the animal loving crowd.
As for the negatives, I found it hard to follow when the story veered into the environmental aspects and corresponding legislation. With all of the characters and locations I would have appreciated more of a better understanding of what was going on at times. Maybe it was my fault but I try to make sure that I give a good honest effort to be a willing reader and still felt a little confused in certain areas.
There are plenty of styles an author can take within the noir/hardboiled brand of fiction and the author managed to achieve some of the more common qualities to constitute the label. Some of my complaints were that Brack was way too cordial, remorseful, wasn't gritty, hysterical or dark enough and didn't have enough grim one-liners to be considered my preferred type of noir character. Maybe my expectations are too isolated to one type of character but from my past experiences in this type of fiction with the likes of John Dolan Vincent, Phineas Poe, Nick Corey, John "Ghost" Smith leading the way; Brack seemed a little lackluster. Brack carried with him a lot of the common characteristics typically found in this genre like the hard-luck victim/suspect with self-destructive habits on the search for justice. That's all well and good but the author didn't delve into the complexities enough given the troubled past of the protagonist. I guess you can probably tell that I generally walk along the darker and "crazy like a fox" side of the noir aisle.
In the end, anyone looking for a little bit of a different approach to a noir/mystery/thriller with atypical talking points then this is the book for you. "From the back deck of my beach rental, I watched the color of
the water alternate between many shades of green. Vivid - that's
how Jo had described the ocean around Saint Lucia on our honeymoon.
The crystal-blue water gave up its secrets as we donned our
snorkels. Vivid - the bright colors of the schools of fish
changing direction at the first hint of our presence in their
domain. Vivid - my memory of the first trip to the hospital when
she started feeling weak. Vivid - Jo and I seated facing the
doctor and hearing him explain the end of Jo's life. Vivid -
holding Jo's hand when she took her last breath. Vivid - Uncle
Reggie dying in my arms in the alley."