A guest review by Tj
Summary Review: In this 5th book of the Dave Brandstetter series, Dave deals with religious zealots, adult filmmakers and “smut peddlers” and goes through major life changes, which provides a glimpse at Dave’s softer side.
The Blurb: His father’s death left Dave Brandstetter with a hole in his heart and an inheritance in his bank account. The money allowed him to venture out on his own, launching a freelance insurance investigation agency that specializes in suspicious deaths. His first case is potentially explosive, and if he isn’t careful, it could be his last.
Crusading evangelist Gerald Dawson believes that piety and violence go hand-in-hand. To clean up his local skid row, he has taken to vigilante justice, ransacking pornography shops and intimidating their owners. When Gerald is found with his neck snapped, the police finger smut peddler Lon Tooker for the crime, but Dave disagrees. As he digs into the holy man’s nighttime activities, he finds a collection of sins that would make even the devil blush.
A Dave Brandstetter Mystery Series
The Review: It’s a common experience after losing someone close to us to death, that ordinary things can spark a memory of our loved one. And ofttimes, they continue to influence our lives, be it in our behaving in a certain way, or taking care of the people they loved, or perhaps just imagining how they would react to situations in our lives and wanting to talk to them one more time. In Skinflick, sadly, Dave is dealing with the death of his father Carl, a character that although not in a lot of scenes, I had really enjoyed from the earlier books. And like ripples from a stone thrown in a placid lake, Dave feels the loss in many aspects of his life.
The unusual California heat wave in the opening scene flashes Dave back to the grave-side burial: “It had been brutal at the cemetery three weeks ago. His father’s nine widows had looked ready to drop. The savage heat had leached the color from the flowers. What the hell was he doing remembering that?” Grieving and trying to process the loss, that’s what Dave was doing.
Often the most enjoyable part of a book series for me is getting to know the characters over the course of several books. Seeing how they react to difficult situations is a common method used for revealing some new facet of their makeup. Although Dave doesn’t seem to outwardly show his grief, there are subtle indications of how Carl’s death has affected him. I felt this seemed much more fitting with Dave’s persona as a tough guy, but I also felt as if we got to see the softer side of Dave in this outing. Reading about how he treats his father’s current widow as well as a friend in need and perhaps my favorite, a new gender questioning acquaintance, all with great kindness and understanding made Dave all the more appealing.
I also liked that Mr. Hansen added a bit of humor in here and there which helped keep what could have been a rather sad story a bit lighter. Did you notice that bit about the nine widows about to melt at the gravesite? I had to chuckle at the image of Carl Brandstetter marrying nine different women and also found it a quite clever way to remind us of what kind of man Carl was. He was a really unique character that I could only picture living in that era.
The mystery was well thought out and had me wondering about the outcome right to the end. Every time I was convinced that one person was guilty, Hansen would throw a new clue out to change my mind. And as in the previous book, Hansen once again wrote a scene near the conclusion of the story that had me on the edge of my seat. It was so intense that I found myself yelling at Dave at one point!
The characters were well developed, not over the top as they could’ve been as Hansen was dealing with religious zealots and some shady characters dealing in adult books and films. I should mention that there is some talk about underage porn, but it’s handled very delicately. I didn’t find that storyline offensive. I feel I should also warn you that some of the religious characters aren’t shown in the best light, as not everyone is who or what they pretend to be. Hansen hit on a lot of controversial topics in this outing, but I felt that he handled them quite deftly. The point seemed more about hypocrisy, than taking a jab at religion.
All in all, I found Skinflick to be as excellent as the previous books in the series. The characters are subtly drawn, the plot interesting and well crafted and the slow revelation of Dave Brandstetter’s character is continued and makes me anxious to read the next story.