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A Dead Red Heart
by R.P. Dahlke
Review

A DEAD RED HEART

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.

R.P. (REBECCA) DAHLKE

Photograph of author R.P. (Rebecca) Dahlke 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.

REVIEW

“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 disposition 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 commitment, responsibility and getting hurt again. Her reputation had obviously preceded 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.

Photograph of author R.P. (Rebecca) Dahlke

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.

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Written by
Yvonne

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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Written by Yvonne