Pop Darrell’s Last Case by former New Yorker and longtime Bangkok resident Dean Barrett is set in New York City and is full of entertaining Chinese mysticism, culture, weapons and war legends.
Pop Darrell is a living but retired legend of the New York City Police Department. He’s a tough old timer and old school with a slew of trophies from his younger days as a pugilist. Pop’s longtime wife has recently passed away from cancer leaving Pop with only his grown kids and a faulty heart to pass the remaining days. A pact he made with his wife is interrupted by screams and a knock on the door of Pop’s house by an attractive young Chinese woman followed closely by her two assailants. A bullet intended for Pop’s temple comes in handy soon after. So begins this thriller of a read, which is part police procedural, part martial arts tutorial and part Chinese fantasy with a dose of the New York City dominatrix scene thrown in, just for fun.
The writing is character driven in more ways than one. The unlikely subjects of Feng Shui and calligraphy play important and interesting roles. How the Chinese perceive and define character and energy through these elements was woven seamlessly into this action packed novel.
The page count comes in at just under 300 pages. Barrett, like a good baseball pitcher, changed the pace, worked quickly and kept the action flowing with a rather high 75 chapter count, many of them ending in cliff hanger style.
The story takes an interesting twist when Pop has some strange dreams and starts to understand things that were previously a mystery. Pop, for reasons that are unclear initially, has become the chosen one and soon takes on a double life as a crime solver and transformed crime fighter.
Pop is determined to work this case against protocol with the help of his old friend in blue and his nephew private investigator, Alan who takes a romantic interest in Judy, the door knocking lady in distress. Comedic moments are present as well, particularly the relationship Pop strikes up with a colorful New York street person named LeRoy. The bad guys after Pop are inhumane and later inhuman. Barrett gets the cruelness across perfectly with his depiction of an ancient Chinese torture scene involving that multi-purpose plant, bamboo.
One of the enjoyable aspects of Pop Darrell’s Last Case is Barrett’s ability to blend the old ways and the old days with present day crime solving technology. There are New York City freaks and Silicon Valley geeks in this present day mystery prominently featuring the NYPD and the city’s crime toughs. This is a well researched, well plotted, Chinese thriller/fantasy, set in New York with many cinematic qualities. I’ll dock Dean slightly for an Elmore Leonard 10 Rules of Good Writing violation when “all hell broke loose” not once but twice within a ten page span toward the end.
Everyone gets around to the reality of dying but not everyone gets down to the business of living. Pop Darrell’s Last Case is, among other things, about how Pop chose to live his life. And how some people live on, whether they like it or not. For readers looking for a good action packed thriller/fantasy, with plenty of Chinese influences and cinematic qualities, I highly recommend Pop Darrell’s Last Case by Dean Barrett. It may well be Pop’s Last Case but fiction fans can hope this will not be Dean Barrett’s last mystery.
The Book launch for Dean Barrett’s, POP DARRYLL’S LAST CASE will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 16 December, 2014 at CheckInn99 between Sukhumvit 5 & 7. Just don’t look for the sign out front.
For more information about author Dean Barrett go to: www.deanbarrettmystery.com