Last week I read The Big Show Stopper because I had arranged to review it on Ascroft, eh?. I found it a relaxing break as I settled down with it for an hour or so each night.
The Big Show Stopper by Ken Dalton is very different from my usual reading choices. It’s a zany, amusing detective story that approaches the normally serious crime genre in a light hearted way. The rare times I read crime novels, books by Ian Rankin, Val McDermid or Manda Scott are my first choice. But this book isn’t in the same mould at all.
The plot revolves around a lawyer’s race to find a suitable suspect to pin a murder on so that his client, who has been charged with the murder of a renowned country singer, can be cleared of guilt and released from jail. The lawyer’s rush to accomplish this is fuelled by his greed: collecting a huge ‘fee’ (more like a bribe!) for freeing his client hangs on meeting the time deadline his client’s girlfriend sets. Initially the plot unfolds in a somewhat predictable manner but a few unexpected twists provide a plausible motive for the murder and reveal the real killer.
The story is told from two viewpoints: the sophisticated and unscrupulous lawyer, Pinky Delamont, and his bumbling but honest redneck private investigator, Bear Zabarte. The main characters are both outrageously, unselfconsciously non-politically correct. The reader is privy to the characters’ thoughts and understands the self-seeking motives behind their every action. It’s obvious that the heroes are nearly as corrupt as the criminals. Anyone with scruples couldn’t approve of their behaviour but it’s hard not to laugh at their audacity. In real life I wouldn’t like either of these men but as characters I rooted for them.
I think Dalton’s characters are deliberately stereotypical but he also throws in quirky details to good effect, making them more interesting and realistic. He tosses one stereotype on its ear: Bear’s busty, image conscious girlfriend, Flo, is the intelligent one of the pair. They are a brawn and brains combination and Bear’s investigation couldn’t succeed without her. Snappy, amusing dialogue helps to make the characters memorable and carries the story along at a steady pace.
I won’t labour my review – the book is a quick, fun, entertaining read. And I was still laughing at the characters’ antics after I read the last page. If you like crime fiction without serious grit this is a book for you.
For more information visit Ken Dalton’s website at www.kendalton.com.