Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Dart League King

I did it again! Another book involving drugs. At least this one was suicide-free. I'm making some progress.

Between my co-worker and the woman who runs The Next Best Book Blog, I became convinced I should sign up for Goodreads. I'm not entirely sure it's worthwhile but it doesn't take a whole lot of effort and it makes it easy to see all the books I've read over the years.

Goodreads also has a recommendation engine which looks to be as primitive and inaccurate as Amazon's. I used to do statistical modeling for a living and it continues to baffle me how poorly some of these places do in predicting what their customers will like. But that's another story. Goodreads' recommendations at least have the benefit of not being confounded by miscellaneous items. Amazon, for example, takes into accounts purchases I might make as gifts for other people in terms of recommendations. This won't help me find something new to read.

Despite my complaints, Goodreads did have some recommendations that looked good. This book, published by Tin House Press, one of the small presses included in the new collection at the library, was one of them. An interesting looking book published by a small press? Sure, I'll check it out.

Good choice, Goodreads. The book has a nice ensemble cast of small-town misfits. It takes place in Garnet Lake, Idaho, where there is little to do. The "hero" of the story, Russell, is in his early twenties, works for a logging company where his lack of skills makes him a danger to others and a disappointment to himself. He lives for his dart league, which he started and has dominated until recently.

That's because Brice Halberstam has moved into town. Brice took over a local convenience store and was once a professional dart player. Brice has a couple of secrets, though. One, he's not really a convenience store owner. He's an undercover Drug Enforcement Agency officer. Two, he's married to a woman suffering from many maladies, most of which might be imagined, who has yet to make love to him even after decades of marriage.

Drugs? In Idaho? Well, yes. There's a good deal of marijuana coming in over the Canadian border (which I also read about in Border Song. I AM beginning to think all novels involve drugs). Brice has discovered that main character number three, Vince Thompson, supplies drugs locally and is probably part of a larger cartel.

Vince is my favorite character. He deals drugs while at the same time is really concerned about the environment. The cartel would love for him to step up and increase his business but Vince is pretty happy right where he is, being a small-time guy and just making a living and saving up his money. Vince has a lot of anger issues, mostly due to his father, and he sets out to kill Russell who stopped buying drugs from Vince because he owes him too much money.

There has to be a love interest and that is Kelly. Kelly longs for something more than small-town Idaho. She has a child (Russell's) who everyone thinks belongs to another guy who long vanished from the area. She's interested in this intellectual guy, Tristan, who she went to high school with. She thinks Tristan might be her ticket out of Podunkville but Tristan has a dark secret of his own which he needs to share with someone and he has picked Kelly.

The entire book covers just one evening in town; the night of the biggest dart match of the year, where both the team and individual championships may be settled. But while the match is going on there are all these undercurrents going on - will Vince kill Russell? Will Brice arrest Vince? What's Kelly doing with that guy? Will she tell Russell the truth about her child? What's Tristan's secret? What's the deal with Brice's wife? For such a short period of time, there's a lot going on.

I enjoyed Morris's writing. It was fast-paced and he moves from character to character very nicely. Despite the flaws of everyone, my interest was kept in the characters. Russell is a bit of a doofus and my like of Vince is probably not universal. His paradoxical behavior is a bit unreal. As is Brice's marriage and Tristan's secret. Add that to an ending that can be viewed as filled with creepiness or redemption, and you get an entertaining yet flawed book.

For a Goodreads recommendation, though, I am quite happy.

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