Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words
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Mike Dennis turned full time to writing after a thirty year career in music, which saw him tour all over the US, and several years as a professional poker player in Las Vegas. After several short stories made it into magazines, a publisher picked up his first novel, The Take. Mike Dennis lives in Key West where many of his novels are based.
For more information, visit the author’s blog.
Teddy Myles is on the run, from the law and his partners in crime. He’s just stolen $700,000 and killed a man. To escape the country he needs a new identity. There’s a man in Key West who can help him, but it’ll take three weeks to be ready. Teddy happens across local girl Gail who’s soon getting him involved in trouble he doesn’t want or need. And there’s a hurricane coming…
Man-Slaughter is a decent story and a real page-turner. The opening scene, where Teddy boosts a car taking the money from a robbery and leaving behind a corpse is strong and creates interest. That his two other partners in crime, Sam and Rosalie, are trying to track him down to get their money back also helps the tension. The sense of place is very good, Key West in particular and the ancillary characters present.
What let the story down slightly for me was the introduction of the other two key players. Teddy meets Skip almost immediately when he stops to eat. He manipulates Teddy into a lift down to Key West. I wasn’t sure I saw the point of Skip and seemingly neither does the author given the fashion in which he exits. He’s almost there for the sake of it and I wonder whether the story would be any less without him.
Then there’s Gail. Teddy meets her outside a garage where he’s trying to get the stolen car repaired. Next thing Teddy is driving her around town, going to the club she works in and eventually is embroiled against his will in another robbery. The element that puzzled me was that Teddy has a very large sum of money in his possession, yes the author creates a situation whereby Teddy is waiting for some fake ID to be created which takes three weeks (and is the reason he goes to Key West), yes he starts to like Gail, but I didn’t feel this was sufficiently compelling vs. the risk he was taking. Gail herself is an odd character as is their relationship. She literally slaps him around and he takes it. Each to their own, I guess.
It was also a pity that it took so long for Sam and Rosalie to physically appear – not until chapter twelve, over a third of the way in. Although this did step up the intrigue, perhaps them arriving sooner and interspersed through the early part of the book, rather than in one block later on, may have worked too. Rosalie is a particularly tough woman and I would have liked to have seen more of her. It’s a relatively short book at just shy of 50,000 words so there could have been room for further development.
There is a lot of internal dialogue – Teddy’s mind essentially doing the talking, often disagreeing with the decisions his conscious self was making. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t.
Finally there is a hurricane thrown in at the point of climax, it felt one step too far in the way it was used and the ending was an ‘oh’ for me. I felt somewhat deflated, however that’s simply a personal view on the way everything was tied up. Others may think it perfect.
Despite the above reservations Man-Slaughter kept me turning the pages and it’s well worth a try.
Some adult language.
Rating: *** Three Stars