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‘A Dead Red Heart’ by R.P. Dahlke


Lalla Bains, ex-model and Ag pilot has plenty to keep her busy during another long hot summer in the San Joaquin Valley of California. But when a homeless Gulf War veteran litters her vintage red caddy with paper snowflakes Lalla figures it’s time for a showdown. Unfortunately, someone else has the same idea leaving Lalla with a dying man at her feet and only his strange last words, “The more there is, the less you see,” as the only clue to his killer.

No one wants her involved in the investigation; certainly not the creepy detective who slithers across her path every chance he gets, and not the local newspaper reporter whose annoying high-jinks cause her to want to set fire to the last three hairs on his head, nor Lalla’s love interest, Sheriff Caleb Stone, who can only wish he could reign in Lalla’s enthusiasm for sleuthing where she’s not welcome.

Ultimately, the question, What would you do if the love of your life lost their chance at a heart transplant to a convicted felon? brings Lalla to the answer of the killer as well as the dubious responsibility of proving it before the killer strikes again.

Clicking on the cover image will take you to the book’s Amazon ‘buy’ page

Check out those all important “First Lines


Rebecca is a well established and respected author in the romantic mystery/suspense genre, with three titles already on the shelves and a fourth (the third in the Lalla Bains series) well underway and due to be published later in 2012.

She was raised on the family crop dusting ranch in California USA, although these days, she lives with her husband in Arizona USA.

Rebecca began 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 you can view her beautiful paintings on her website.

Visit Rebecca at her Website

Connect With Rebecca on Facebook

Follow Rebecca on Twitter


“The More There Is, The Less We See”

Typically me, I have come into this series with the second book, although luckily ‘A Dead Red Heart’ works fine as a stand alone novel. It was quite easy to pick up the background of the character Lalla Bains and arrive at the situation in which we now find her. In fact, in no time at all, it felt as though I knew her personally, such is the strength and personality of the characterisation.

You have to know right from the start, that this romantic mystery also has its fair share of humour and nothing is meant to be taken too seriously, which is just as well given the quirky nature of the disparate group of characters which the author has created and brought to life, in such spectacular fashion.

That includes Lalla Bains herself. Someone more unsuited to her job as a crop duster, both in appearance and personality, you couldn’t wish to find and even being au fait with her background and tarnished reputation, doesn’t prepare you for her quirky dispostition and flamboyant personality. Mind you, you only have to look at Lalla’s father to explain where some of her eccentricities might stem from and let’s not mention her past private life! trouble just seems to follow the girl around like a bad smell!

It certainly doesn’t look too good, that someone who is all set to marry one of the local police officers, should keep being discovered with all these dead bodies and involved in crime scenes, that she seems intent on solving single-handedly, much against her lover’s wishes, although Caleb seems to have little, if any control, over this impatient and impetuous female, who is obviously addicted to danger, as well as to him.

I got the impression though, that much of Lalla’s bravado in front of Caleb, was something of a front which masked her underlying fear of committment, responsibility and getting hurt again. Her reputation had obviously preceeded her return from the city to her home town and she appears intent on shouldering much of the blame for her past mistakes, when really her only crime seems to have been one of being taken in by a hard luck story and having lousy taste in men. She hasn’t necessarily chosen the way of life she now has, but on the other hand it is a great ‘get out of jail free’ card, when it comes to hiding away from her own feelings. She can’t really believe that Caleb is prepared to accept her for the person she is now and not what has happened to her in the past, not realising that if she pushes him away enough times, he may be lost to her. It is taking Lalla a long time to accept both herself and Caleb for the individuals they are, and that whilst there are no certainties in life, she has to open her heart one more time if she ever hopes to find the happiness and love she yearns for.

I found it astounding that, in a town where you have to pass an interview panel to be able to consider moving into the community, which is then only deemed appropriate when a member of the townsfolk dies to make a space for you, that there are so many unsolved crimes and murders … and Lalla is at the heart of all the action.

The plot moves at a rattling pace, full of twists and turns, with plenty of excitement and energy. This all comes across in the lively narrative, which despite the underlying humour, is very perceptive and seeds the idea in the readers minds, about some very serious and controversial issues including; organ donation, homelessness, and PTSD.

All of the characters, no matter how small their part, have well defined personalities, which are believable, easy to relate to and become sympathetic with. They are however, without exception, exaggerated and very much larger than life. I have to say that I thought this made discovering the identity of the murderer a little too easy, however, fast changing events caused me to change my mind about the perpetrator several times, only to have my initial suspicions confirmed, but not until right near to the end of the story.

Similarly, although the motive for this string of crimes wasn’t discovered until right near the end of the story, it was there right in front of you, if you read closely enough. I guess it is purely a matter of personal taste, just how much of a plot you like to be revealed ‘up front’, but for me, it might have involved a little more guesswork and deduction on my part.

Coming from such a small country as the UK, where their presence is unnecessary, I also found amongst the pages of  this book, some valuable insights into the life, work and dangers of  being a crop duster. This is something which the author has first-hand knowledge of, coming as she does from a crop dusting family. Very sadly, this same occupation which gave her her start in life, is the one that has caused her most pain, with the death of her son in a tragic crop dusting accident. That she shares even the smallest insight into this necessary, yet dangerous job, is a tribute to her tenacity and attention to detail, all helping to make the reality of Lalla’s situation so much more poignant.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as it 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 4 out of 5.

As this was an author invitation to read and review, a complimentary copy of ‘A Dead Red Heart’ was sent to me free of charge, by the author.

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 are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • Oh, I do like the sound of this one. I like humour in crime fiction and it’s also nice when the main character has some kind of history and a definite personality. I’m a bit taken aback at the idea of a town where you have to pass an interview before you can live there. Heavens above! I’ll keep an eye out for this or the first book.

    • Hi Cath,

      I still haven’t read the first book yet, but they are great as stand-alones, so that really isn’t a problem.

      There is a third book coming out in the Lalla Bains series, called ‘A Dead Red Oleander’ and that is due for publishing round about April.

      I don’t think that interview and vetting system would work too well in this country, do you? Although I can almost imagine it happening in some of the very rural communities, where your face either fits, or it doesn’t and it can take literally years before you can call yourself a ‘local’!

      Lalla Bains definitely has a history and an attitude, together with a physical stature that makes her stand out from the crowd, certainly not someone to trifle with me thinks!!

      I read another of Rebecca’s books ‘A Dangerous Harbor’ which is a stand alone novel, with a whole new cast of quirky characters. At the time, I don’t think I quite got to grips with the humour of the writing, as I had always stayed with the more serious solid thrillers before that, so even though I did enjoy it, ‘A Dead Red Heart’ was a much better experience for me.

      I actually quite like the humorous mystery genre, I might search for some more like this.

      Good to talk with you, I can’t believe how many of your posts I have missed, although I have been struggling with a bad mouth infection just lately and haven’t really been on the ball. Hence why I am at home during the day today, as the tooth has finally had to go and I am recuperating.

      • No, I can’t see the interview and vetting system working here either. To be honest I would run a mile from somewhere that wanted to do it too. Surely such a place full of people that are all the same would be a rather boring place? Diversity and all that…

        By the way, I looked up Rebecca Dahlke on Fantastic Fiction and she’s not there. Curious, I thought *everyone* was on there. And what a lovely letter you got from her.

        I do hope your mouth is better soon. That sounds very unpleasant.

        • Hi Cath,

          The mouth is getting better all the time, thanks. It all came as a bit of a shock, as I have had no work done on my teeth (including no fillings), for the last 20 years …. Do you think this is an age message??

          There have been quite a few authors who haven’t shown up on Fantastic Fiction, just lately. It used to be that anyone who sold through Amazon made it straight onto their pages, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer. On the whole though, the site is still one of the best around, as there is so much information and some great links.

          I think that Rebecca has all her books listed on her website (the link is up in the post), together with synopses and short extracts.

          Is it me, or is Amazon getting worse when it comes to including a synopsis with their books? I know I complain that some authors give away too much of the plot in a synopsis, but it is just as annoying when there isn’t even a brief overview of a book.

          It has been another lovely Spring like day here, lets just hope that we are not going to suffer for it later, can’t believe it is already March!

          • So glad you mouth is improving. Not necessarily old age, my dentist told me once that mouth infections can from nowhere, at any time. You’ve just been unlucky I think.

            It’s been a stunning day hasn’t it? Just beautiful. My husband has spring fever and has been out in the garden pruning everything is sight!

            Funnily enough I too have noticed that Amazon seems to have stopped having a synopsis of every book. I’ve had to rely on the reviewers at the bottom, and sometimes there aren’t any so you’re left completely in the dark.

            I rely very heavily on FF as I must admit I do like to read book series in the right order. Amazon is just not that good at telling you the order of various series of books.

            Yes… how is it March already?

  • This comes directly from the author of ‘A Dead Red Heart’, Rebecca Dahlke.
    To say I was pleased, is putting it mildly.
    I think it is great when an author engages with the reviewer, for me it is just the icing on the cake!!


    Dear Yvonne, thanks so much for the great review for A Dead Red Heart. I have to say I was holding my breath as I wasn’t sure you’d like the book, or my writing style, but as I read your review, I had to put my hands up to my face to keep the smile from bending back my ears!

    To say I’m thrilled is an understatement! Not many reviewers put such effort into discussing the main character and her motivation, so I was tickled to see that you really, really got my portrayal of this multi-faceted woman cropduster.

    Of course I will put you on the short list of reviewers for A Dead Red Oleander when it comes out in (hopefully) April of this year.And, I never have a problem about how long it takes a reviewer to finish and review as my books can always use a review whenever it comes out.

    I’ll be posting this great review everywhere today.

    Warmest regards, Rebecca

  • Yvonne, thanks for such a comprehensive review, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading as I had never heard of this author before this evening. Despite this I will not be adding it to the already far too long wishlist. This year I aim to try and clear more of the TBR shelves.

    Thanks for all your recent comments, the Book review one is the only one where I reply publicly to comments. However you have your status set as no reply, I just wanted to say I was so pleased you enjoyed the Jungfrau region post, happy memories.

    • Hi Linda,

      I keep setting myself the goal of clearing my TBR pile, but it just doesn’t happen. Friends and family keep giving me books that they are finished with, then there are the review copies which authors and publishers send out, not to mention the fact that my mother-in-law and I have a shared kindle account where we can both read the books no matter which of us downloads them. The problem with that is, mother-in-law downloads them at such a rate because she constantly reads, that I now have well over 50 titles sat in my archive, just waiting for me to get around to them.

      I enjoy visiting your various sites and I understand that you can’t respond to every comment, right across the board. Goodness knows, it is difficult enough just responding to every comment on one blog, but that is the standard that I wanted to set myself right from the outset … every comment gets an answer on Fiction Books and a return visit to their site.

      Of course I shall continue to visit all your sites on a regular basis, as they are so interesting and so full of nostalgia, if your Jungfrau post was anything to go by. I just loved Switzerland, it is just a shame that it is soooo! expensive! Maybe one day ….

Written by Yvonne