Friday, March 30, 2012

Splattered Blood by Michael A. Draper: A review

Would-be writers are always told to write about what they know. Perhaps that is why Michael Draper chose as the hero of his first mystery novel a mild-mannered insurance agent. Draper works in the insurance field and obviously knows it well and, in the course of his work, we are told that he has developed relationships and contacts with law enforcement personnel. He draws on all of that experience in plotting his tale of amateur detectives trying to solve a murder case. 

The murder case itself starts out as a putative suicide. Johnny Kelly, the chief of internal security for a professional basketball team, the Highlanders, is found dead in his office. There is a suicide note and at first everything seems straightforward, but when the grieving widow gets a look at a copy of that note, she points out several anomalous and suspicious facts which convince her that her husband wrote the note under duress and wrote it in such a way as to alert her to that fact. 

The widow, Roseanne, has not been happy with the police investigation of her husband's death and she determines to look into it on her own with help from her brother, Graham, and her friend, the aforementioned mild-mannered insurance agent, Randy. Soon the three, sometimes accompanied by Roseanne's seven-year-old son, are traveling around the East Coast, from Connecticut and Boston to Washington, D.C. following up on investigations that were being conducted by Johnny Kelly before his death and trying to discover a link between those investigations and his murder. By now, the police are convinced that it was murder and are conducting their own investigation but they seem much slower off the mark and much less successful than the three amateurs! 

Splattered Blood is an apt title for this book for soon the bodies are piling up and blood and gore are all over the place. There are shootouts with drug gangs, connections with organized crime and the Russian Mafia. It feels like the author is using the "everything including the kitchen sink" theory of plotting. I think it might have been wiser to simply focus on one source of evil and keep the plot a bit simpler, but you have to admire Draper's reach if not his grasp in this first effort. 

I really wanted to like this book a lot because I do identify with the efforts of the first-time novelist. In the end though, I have to be honest and say that I found the plot slow-moving and cluttered with a lot of extraneous details and I was annoyed by the constant use of the present tense throughout the book. (I know - that's my own personal eccentricity, but there it is!) First novels are often problematic and not necessarily emblematic of a writer's best work, but the ice has been broken now. Michael Draper obviously does not lack in the imagination department. It will be interesting to see what he imagines for his next effort.

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