‘A DEAD RED OLEANDER’ by R.P. DAHLKE
When a late in the season emergency forces Lalla Bains to accept a greenhorn ag pilot for her dad’s cropdusting business, she sighs in relief . After all, he comes highly recommended, his physical is spotless, and with a name by Dewey Treat, what could possibly go wrong?
Then her quirky relatives arrive from Texas and things go south in a hurry; Dewey Treat drops dead, his tearful widow claims he was murdered, clobbers Sherriff Caleb Stone with his own gun, and makes a run for it. Lalla, convinced the widow is innocent, sets out to prove it—against the express wishes of fiancé Caleb Stone.
Feds, local law, suspicious ag-pilots, nutso relatives, and her daddy’s new sidekick, Bruce the goat, make life a living hell for Lalla. Will her nosey nature solve the crime and save the day? Or put them all in mortal danger?
WHO IS R.P. (REBECCA) DAHLKE?
R.P. (AKA Rebecca) Dahlke, is a well established and respected author in the romantic mystery/suspense genre, with four titles now on the shelves, ‘A Dead Red Oleander’ being the third in the highly successful ‘Lalla Bains’ series.
Rebecca was raised on the family crop dusting ranch in California USA, although these days, she lives with her husband in Arizona USA.
She started writing way back in 1994, although a family tragedy curtailed her writing for many years after the publication of ‘A Dead Red Cadillac’, until she felt able to pick up her pen again in 2010, when ‘A Dangerous Harbor’ was conceptualised and ‘A Dead Red Heart’ was finally completed.
Rebecca set up a chapter of SINC (‘Sisters In Crime Inc’) in her home town, adding to the some 48 chapters which exist all over the world. SINC is an organisation of about 3600 members in 48 chapters world-wide and founded in 1986, offering networking, advice and support to mystery authors. It comprises authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by their affection for the mystery genre and their support of women who write mysteries. The aims of the organisation are to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.
Rebecca is also an accomplished artist and is the President of the Board of Directors for the Huachuca Art Association in Sierra Vista, AZ. Clicking on the link above will take you directly to Rebecca’s page on the association’s site, where you can view some of her great paintings.
WORDS FROM THE BOOK
‘ “No, I can’t! I won’t! No man has ever gotten knifed on account of me. If he dies, I won’t ever get a chance to say goodbye. And if he lives, I want to be the first person there so I can ask him why he did such a stupid thing.” ‘
‘MY THOUGHTS ABOUT ‘A DEAD RED OLEANDER’
“Grab yourself an easy chair, get nice and comfy, you’ll be feeling right at home in no time“
Oh! and by the way…
No goats were harmed in the writing of this book!!
If you enjoy your murder/ mysteries, with a touch of romance and a generous smattering of humour, then keep right on reading: ….
Although this is the third book in the Lalla Bains series, it is a standing tribute to Rebecca that each one of the books works so well as a stand alone story. When characters are re-introduced and have clearly appeared in one of the previous stories, it takes no time at all to work out exactly who they are and the relationship which Lalla has with each of them.
Lalla Bains just can’t help but land herself in trouble every time we meet her. She just seems to attract it and, like a bad itch she just has to scratch it, rather than walk away and leave the crime solving to the professionals, AKA her long suffering fiance Caleb, who just happens to be the local Sherriff!
Lalla has finally overcome her reticence to another emotional committment, after two previous relationships which have ended dramatically and disastrously, accepting that her heart truly does belong to long-time friend and confidant, Caleb. The only trouble is, she just can’t help interfering in his official police investigations, which can put their relationship under some strain from time to time, although with Lalla having the strength of personality and tenacity that she does, she always comes out on top .. or is she only fooling herself that she does?. Failing that, she can just turn on the charm and that, coupled with her great looks, usually means that Caleb becomes putty in her hands and she can wrap him around her little finger .. or is Caleb just letting her think she can? .. Lalla does still have a sensitive and compassionate side to her personality and an underlying vulnerability, which no amount of bluff and bluster can ever fully conceal and in ‘A Dead Red Oleander’, we witness her finally trying to ‘build some bridges’ with her Texas relatives.
It would appear to an outsider, that Caleb is being used more like a doormat, than a soulmate, by the manipulative wiles and charms of Lalla. However, closer examination, reveals that far from resenting this behaviour, Caleb actually quite enjoys the cut and thrust of the chase in trying to outmanoeuvre Lalla in her crime solving attempts, whilst slowly but surely breaking down her emotional defences and finally getting her to the top of the aisle …. although the game isn’t quite over yet … maybe in book 4? He is definitely the steadying influence in this relationship, seeming to know Lalla’s moods, perhaps even better than she knows them herself and is always willing to take his place on the sidelines, whilst Lalla tries to work her way through any problems, yet always there for her if she needs a shoulder to lean on …
The main protagonists and all the supporting characters, have larger than life personalities, which lend themselves to some great dialogue exchanges and some pretty strange and esoteric action scenes. In preparation for the couple’s forthcoming nuptuals, Lalla’s relatives have arrived in California, from Texas and now the fun really starts!!
At first glance, it seemed as though the supporting characters were almost incomplete and one-dimensional, however I pretty quickly came to the conclusion, that by just walking into a room and speaking a scant few words, I could envisage what they looked and sounded like, what they would have been wearing, how they would have acted and what kind of personalities they each had. When the Californian Bains’s got together with their southern relatives, it was as though I was reliving a scene from long ago episodes of the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ and eavesdropping on a conversation which ‘The Clampetts’ would have had, seated around their kitchen table … Gun-toting Grandma’s and all!!
When Lalla and her cousin Pearlie got together, I could feel the tension in the air and was waiting for the inevitable sparks, which were certain to fly, as both women were ‘damaged goods’ and had plenty of past history with men and bad decisions!. However, it is surprising just how a murder can focus the mind and the girls instantly united, pooling their ideas and thoughts, in their attempts to prove Nancy innocent of murdering her husband…. although with a name like Dewey Treat, who wouldn’t be tempted to put him out of his misery!!!!
When one murder became four, I did begin to cringe at some of the dubious and erratic decisions the girls were making and I was amazed when they still managed to keep the suspect alive, long enough to be able to stand trial. With their ability to bounce ideas off of one another, their undoubted good looks (which they always strove to use to their own good advantage) and their penchant for owning and driving red cars, I was at first leaning towards the idea of them becoming a two person ‘Charlie’s Angels’ (No! too prim and proper), or a modern day ‘Cagney and Lacey’ (No! too old fashioned and staid). However I then decided that despite the obvious similarities between them, there were enough differences to justify them becoming the female ‘Starsky and Hutch’ of the crime solving world …. Bubbly, charismatic and definitely slightly ‘off the wall’!!. With enough charisma to open doors and a deceptive vulnerability which would take any unsuspecting felon off-guard just long enough to find themselves on their way to jail, without even realising how it had happened!
Now that Pearlie has thrown her hat into the ring and claimed ‘Mad-Dog’ as her prize, she is threatening to stick around after the wedding, when she is planning that she and Lalla should start a new business venture together … Is the world (not to mention Modesto), ready for this dynamite combination … and when Caleb discovers just what the two blonde bombshells are planning, just how will he take it?
The introduction of ‘Billy’ the goat, is something of a non-event (which I think is totally staged and pre-meditated by the author) and although he does have a few cameo roles to play, his presence is something of a red-herring. But be warned … Billy will be back … and it sounds as though he is going to be getting some much bigger scenes to play out next time!!
Rebecca has a superb way of character writing, which makes her whole cast animated and breathes life into them; so much so, that you feel as though you had met them all before and they are almost like your best friends or family coming to visit.
The plot is fast paced, frenetic and leave you almost breathless, just trying to keep up with all the goings on and the numerous twists and turns which Rebecca manges to inject into the story.
With her effortless plot building and relaxed, easy flowing style, you can almost envisage Rebecca reading this story aloud. I found myself chuckling aloud in a couple of places and was left smiling, long after I had turned the last page.
This murder/mystery novel, was gifted as a request for me to read and leave my comments about, by its author, R.P.Dahlke, and as such was free of charge.
This will in no way influence any comments I may express about the book, in any blog article I may post. Any thoughts or comments will be my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 5 out of 5.