As I said yesterday, we’re going to be covering more than just music here for the near future and perhaps the far future as well. Today we’re going to review a book I thoroughly enjoyed called A King of Infinite Space by Tyler Dilts. This is a police procedural to its core. It invokes many of the standard genre themes that go along with writing a murder/police procedural like the cop that’s too close to a crime, the cop that drinks too much and the cop that is widowed, divorced or a bachelor. Those are things that we come to expect out of these types of stories. You can’t have a cop come home to his Norman Rockwell family after seeing a grisly murder. It simply wouldn’t work.
Those are some of the things that draw me to these stories. I love the feeling of isolation that lead character, in this case Danny Beckett, gets when he thinks about his case, his deceased wife and his feelings of failure in his life. Dilts does a remarkable job of bringing us into the fold as we watch Beckett delve into the case. Beckett along with his martial arts expert partner, Jen Tanaka, take us through the case from their point of view and lead us along bad lead after bad lead. The frustration mounts and even though the killer is fairly easy to figure out, it does not diminish the feeling of excitement that the book takes us on.
The setting for the book is brilliant. Rarely does a book take place in a locale such as Long Beach, California where Dilts deftly describes the streets where Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg made their bones and the gentrified Pine Street, where hipsters and yuppies now populate the landscape. The story is funny, but not comic. The subject matter is serious and some of it even Chinatown esque and yet the jocularity that is provided throughout the book never detracts from the overall telling of the story. The book is succinct and not filled with too much clutter as often writers do to fill pages.
There is another thing that I found to be particularly different and that was the specificity of the book. It speaks of places with a penchant of knowledge and directness that most books of this nature do not. It is very reminiscent of something James Ellroy does, in that Danny Beckett does not merely drink vodka, he drinks Grey Goose. They don’t drive down a fictional street they drive down Pine St., the gentrified place I spoke of earlier. Pine Street where, when I used to work summers with my grandfather on his vending route, we would have breakfast at diners and dodge the exceedingly large number of homeless men. This was a different time, however. They have moved those bums a few streets away now.
And, of course, the music. There is a virtual soundtrack in this book as Beckett, to my gleeful pleasure, is a rather large Springsteen and Avett Brothers fan. Again, though, he doesn’t just say, we popped in the Springsteen album and it played, no he goes into specific songs and if you know the songs (I won’t ruin that here) then you know how they fit the scenes he writes about. The story moves at a fast pace, so you’re never wont for action. The characters are well thought out and well developed.
My only complaints are the lack of technology. The detectives seem to be stuck in the early stages of the internet and the quickness with which I realized who the killer was. The red herrings that abound are wonderful, but because of the ignoring of one of the characters it almost become fairly obvious where the story is headed. However, the red herrings are wonderfully written and so filled with tension that I didn’t mind them as much as I had in other stories.
For a police procedural this is a fantastic read. For a debut novel this is utter brilliance which could lead to a series. One can only hope. The final thing I will say is that this is published by Amazon Encore which is Amazon’s exclusive publishing company. So while it might limit the exposure ever so slightly, it brings in more revenue to those artists that actually did the work of writing the book and less to the publishing houses, which much like record labels screw over their artists by taking large chunks of royalties. This is a subject I’m definitely going to be covering more, because I really think Amazon Encore is doing something special in the realm of publishing.
My rating system for books will be different than music. It’s basically like pass or fail. Burn it or Buy it is what I’ll call it. A King of Infinite Space is a definite buy it from me as it has everything I long for in a police procedural with enough of the ancillary elements of fiction to keep me thoroughly engaged throughout.
A King of Infinite Space is available here from Amazon Encore.