Tuesday, January 31, 2006

THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND by J.D. Rhoades

A long, long time ago it seems, I read the works of Robert B. Parker, Jeremiah Healy, Robert Crais, and Harlan Coben two or three books a week. Having expanded my horizons since then, I've come to know how rarely the voices of distraction and criticism take a few hours off.

In every case above, the prose was crisp enough, the characters real enough, for me to forgive most trifles and keep reading. One more chapter, one more scene, I could think of nothing more important than finding out what happened next.

I'm happy to report the same reaction to J.D. Rhoades's debut novel. Bail jumper DeWayne Puryear and his cousin Leonard decide to hold up the owner of a timber company for some quick cash. When the holdup results in the owner's death, DeWayne finds himself in double trouble, pursued by bounty hunter protag Jack Keller, who just wants to bring him in, and by the owner's vengeful, drug-dealing son, who's out for blood.

Keller is tough—built like a linebacker with shoulder-length blond hair (Kevin Greene, anyone?)—but also damaged, yet retains some do-gooder naivete. He is backed by his boss, Angela Hager—who survived her husband's attempt to mutilate and burn her in a fire—and by his lawyer, slick and smooth-talking Scott McCaskill.

My one peeve about the novel is its multi-viewpoint structure, which led to the partial rehashing of several scenes. Again, in general I think this is an ill-advised attempt to duplicate movie effects in a book. Thankfully, Rhoades doesn't cut rapidly too often, spending enough time with each character to hook me.

Of course, the main villain takes as much if not more punishment than Keller and survives to the penultimate page, but what else would you expect from a page-turner? Recommended for fans of flowing prose and a good chase.

4 comments:

JD Rhoades said...

Thanks Gerald! After your earlier comments about switching viewpoints, I was going "uh-oh..."

I really enjoy writing with shifting viewpoints, becuase part of the fun for me is getting into the heads of various characters...especially the villains.

McCaskill, even though a minor character, is particularly fun to write, because he's a composite of the best criminal lawyers I've met.

Gerald So said...

You're welcome, Dusty. I have nothing against getting into other characters' heads in principle. It's the rapid switching that can become choppy.

As I said in the review, it comes down to the prose, which can either make viewpoint switches seem too rapid or put me in the viewpoint I want, when I want to be there. The Devil's Right Hand was largely a case of the latter.

Good show and continued success.

guyot said...

Agree with Gerald - I enjoyed this book.

Bill said...

Yeah, a good one, and the paperback is even on the racks at the Alvin, Texas, Wal-Mart. You can't beat distribution like that!