Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rigor Mortis / Jeni Decker

This is the second half of a double shot. This morning we had a much different take on the same book from Keith Nixon. I believe both reviews are correct. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Thriller/Crime Fiction/Detective Mystery

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


“Jeni Decker lives on a farm in rural Michigan with a bunch of animals (human and canine), and her albino frog, Humbert Humbert.”

Decker has written multiple books, both traditionally and independently published.

For more, visit her website or blog.


“Dex Morneau is a self-described long-haired heap of sinew and gristle, with too few clients and too much drinking time on his hands. He's comfortable in his own skin, uncomfortable around anyone else's - tired, apathetic, and generally resigned to both, due to his propensity toward circumspection.
He supplements his private detective work with process serving, and is none too happy about that fact. Six months ago, Carla Danning sauntered into his life, all tits, temperament and testicular torture, and she's been an invective-spewing shackle around his tackle ever since.”

This is the first book in the Dex Morneau series. Book two is also available.


Rigor Mortis is both just like other mystery novels featuring a private investigator and his trusty sidekick, and completely unlike those same books. The primary mystery is finding a missing person for a client with all the investigation and questioning of people, consideration of motives others might have to do the person harm, and blah, blah, blah. You know the formula. There are some interesting twists in that story line and it is well done, but it isn’t what sets Rigor Mortis apart from the pack.

That Dex Morneau’s “trusty sidekick” just showed up one day and convinced him to give her a job, yet remains a mystery to him and, from what he’s able to find, has no history prior to starting work, is the mystery that drew me in the most.

And then there is Decker’s writing style. In many ways it feels like a classic hard-boiled detective, if a touch more literate. But it is a unique voice. Sometimes it threw me with a word choice, as in the very first line, “The human body demurring to death is never pretty.” I had to read that again and then spend a few seconds pondering the use of demurring. A perfectly good word for what is being described, but hardly typical. Other times, these same word choices resulted in lines that left me slack jawed. One example is in Decker’s book blurb, lifted directly from Morneau’s description of Danning near the beginning, where he describes her as having, “sauntered into his life, all tits, temperament and testicular torture, and she's been an invective-spewing shackle around his tackle ever since.” I know, alliteration and rhyme are nothing new, but are seldom done that well. Another example comes later when Morneau says this about Danning:

Carla’s one of those “it’s written all over her face” kind of gals. I’m guessing she’s horrible at poker. Expressive is the word that comes to mind. She doesn’t seem to have an internal edit button. You know, that thing that keeps the average person from dropping the f-bomb at a PTA function… or the Vatican.

Rigor Mortis had me alternating between laughing, trying to fit the puzzle pieces together, and muttering to myself, “Damn, that was a great line.”


Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos.

Rating: ***** Five stars


Vicki said...

Now isn't that interesting. I like that you both have quite a different take on the same book.

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks, Vicki. I completely understand Keith's take and found it very reasonable. It is as correct, for him, as mine is for me. I'm considering writing a post at Indies Unlimited using this set of reviews as an example. I believe that these, taken together would be very beneficial in finding the right readers for the book.

Pete Barber said...

Excellent, I've been waiting for one of these double-shots to turn into a rocket and a squib instead of an agreeable discussion!

My first impression: Keith reads A LOT of crime/mystery. I wonder how much that plays into the different opinions.

Al, you obviously enjoyed the literary aspects, in particular how the author used language in a unique manner within the genre.

Keith focused on the structure. As you say--both valid and correct.

If this were a discussion of wine (a metaphor I'm totally comfortable with), and Al was an occasional drinker. He might thoroughly enjoy a solid Pinot Noir (noir--get it?). But if Keith consumed Pinot in a quantity comparable to his crime-genre addition, he might be more inclined to focus his comments on the wine's structural flaws.

BooksAndPals said...

I think you're at least partly right, Pete. Your first impression, I'm not sure I agree, but there might be something there. Your second thought is kind in the same neighborhood as my initial thoughts.

Keith does read a lot in the crime/mystery genres. I'd also include thrillers and suspense as a part of that same arena. Keith may read more books in those genres, but I read a lot in them and always have. (I think I'm enough older that I might have still read as many as he has in my lifetime.) I was asked by someone to pick my favorite author of all time a couple months ago and chose Donald Westlake, who was smack dab in Keith's area, the master of the comic crime novel. But over the years I've probably leaned more to the thriller than the crime novel, whether gritty or comic crime, and I think thrillers as a genre might require the reader to suspend disbelief more than the typical crime novel.

My thought was that the book read almost like a satire of a hard-boiled detective. And my reason for thinking that was the literary aspects you mention. That not only got me focusing on the words more than the credibility of some of the more belief stretching plot points, but I think viewing it as a bit of satire made me more willing to ignore those kind of things. I think genre, or the reader's perception of the genre, is going to enter into how far the reader is willing and able to suspend disbelief, assuming it is a genre that they've read a fair amount. Some genres require more from the reader to work in that regard than others. All speculative fiction, especially fantasy, requires much more than others, say a straight romance or a police procedural.

BooksAndPals said...

Also, Pete, I'm sorry for neglecting to give you the appropriate accolades for the Pinot Noir play on words. :)

Jeni Decker said...

I set up Google alerts, like you suggested, and got your double-shot reviews this morning. Loved them! I’m tickled that Al enjoyed the literary aspects. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that I enjoy nothing more as a writer than crafting an interesting sentence because I’ve had that “Man, I wish I’d written that!” moment when reading the work of others.
I’d also like to mention that Pete is spot on in his comments. Prior to writing this, I read all of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series and I wanted to write something similar in tone; moody and character driven, short reads, and do my best to tell an interesting crime story within the context of the relationship between Morneau and Carla. This is my first time writing in this genre—I generally don’t write genre fiction, so it’s been a fun and challenging learning process. The oil spill was based on an actual oil spill here in Michigan, and still hasn’t been cleaned up all the way. Millions of dollars over budget… you know the drill. But I think I could have done a better job of illustrating how a lot of these local stories tend to get buried in the big govt. brouhaha that usually ends up hogging all the coverage. So, I wanted to say that Pete’s issue in that area with suspension of disbelief was on point. I also wanted to mention that my father had a similar reaction to Carla’s character. He hates her. ;) Mostly because I based her on myself and he doesn’t like the idea of her dialogue coming out of my mouth.
As an author, I so enjoy thoughtful critique and I will take these things under consideration as I work on book three. Thank you gentlemen so much. I hesitated to post this here because I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate for the author to comment, so feel free to remove if that’s against the rules. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciated you taking the time to read, and your kind words.

Jeni Decker

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks for the comments, Jeni. I should point out that it was Keith, not Pete, who did the other review. (I've been known to confuse them myself. :) ) But Pete had some good comments on the differences.

I never object to comments from authors on reviews if they're respectful as we try to be with our reviews.

Keith Nixon said...

Great to read everyone's comments, particuarly yours Jeni, I know full well how hard it is to write a strong story and yours certainly was, I await the next installment with interest!

For the record guys I read a lot across quite a few genres - the only exceptions would be chick lit / genre ;)

Jeni Decker said...

Thanks, Keith. Sorry I messed up your name. Bad, bad Jeni!

I was so pleased to read the reviews this morning, I think I hit send before I had finished my second cup of coffee... which is never good. :)

Thanks again to both of you.

Pete Barber said...

Pinot Noir--yup. A good pun isn't worth what it used to be...

I had to step away from the computer for a couple deep breaths when Jeni confused me and Keith. Al, this is turning into an 'in' joke. I guess (like Bulldogs, maybe) we English reviewers really do look alike :-D.

Cheers . . . Pete (not Keith, but very similar)

Keith Nixon said...

Take it as a compliment Pete ;)