Desmond Carmichael had some baggage. He wife was brutally murdered; beheaded by a Japanese Samurai sword that he owned. He drank too much. He was fired from his teaching job. And he had a four year old Lucas to take care of. But he was doing his best, and getting better. He quit drinking and was working on getting a second book published. He was paying the bills and keeping his head above water. Until Desmond found Lucas being led into the woods by a man in a Samurai mask; a beheaded doll next to his toy truck in the sandbox; and a mystery haiku on his laptop computer. The local police wouldn't help, the Detective instead believing that Desmond was making it up for attention, or worse, had killed his wife a year earlier.
Douglas Wynne's first novel, The Devil of Echo Lake, was the first place winner of the 2012 JournalStone Horror Fiction contest. Steel Breeze, a crime thriller, is his second, but no less deserving of high praise. The book had a little of almost everything a good thriller should: good cops and bad cops, leads and misleads, suspense and action, heroes and villains, vengeance, jealousy, even kidnapping. And of course, murder. Cold blooded. Unsuspected. Murder. All of which culminated in a climactic and page turning ending that left me satisfied.
Even though the characters were dynamic and the story complex, there were some misses, too. Consider this dialogue between four year old Lucas and one of the antagonists:
"I don't like it here. I want to go home."Although short, it is one of my favorite exchanges in the book. It implies so much about what could have been explored, that good and bad are not always exclusive; that even murder and murderers are complex. Lots of stories have been told from the point of view of a righteous killer or outlaw. Fewer have told a story from both perspectives, leaving readers torn between who should succeed. That opportunity could have been realized. Instead, the passage quoted above was just a glimpse of what could have taken Steel Breeze from a good to great thriller.
"Just rest, okay? Here, have some water."
Lucas shook his head. "Are you a bad guy?"
Bell considered the question..."I don't know."
"My Daddy says bad guys usually think they're the good guys."
Wynne, Douglas. Steel Breeze, JournalStone Publishing, 2013.
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