Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mark Bacon's Death In Nostalgia City Is A Real Treat

From the beginning of this assured debut mystery, it was obvious that Reno author Mark Bacon is a pro writer, and I settled in for what I knew would be a good ride. By the end, the book had surpassed my high expectations.

Lyle Deming, a retired cop from Phoenix, is a middle-aged cab driver at a late ’60s / early ’70s theme park in northern Arizona. He enjoys his job chatting up his Baby Boomer customers and telling jokes about the old days. But when the theme park suffers a series of accidents and people are injured, the theme park’s owner becomes very worried. He wants Lyle to investigate.

Lyle is an intriguing character. We gradually learn that his exit from his police career was messy. There are hints of mental health issues. Lyle also has a stepdaughter with medical problems, and Lyle’s recalcitrant dad has moved in with him. These revelations make Lyle a fully-formed person, struggling with a range of difficulties, and we care about him much more than we would a “regular” guy.

Lyle has a colleague in Kate, a woman with relationship issues of her own. She’s been hired by the theme park’s owner to produce good publicity to counter the bad press generated by the park’s accidents.

The action ranges from the theme park in Arizona to the Boston area. There is some fun subterfuge involving illegal phone tapping and other corporate intrigue, sneaking through corporate offices, searching computer files, and evading suspicious executives at the big Boston insurance company that invested in the theme park. Lyle suspects the company of sabotaging the theme park by arranging accidents to crash its reputation so that the insurance company can take over ownership of the park.

Just as we start to think that the story is mostly an intriguing puzzle about shady business dealings, the body count starts to ratchet up and the action gets intense. Lyle and Kate are being hunted. They are on the run across the country, and they don’t know who to trust. The story builds to a dramatic climax set in a striking place unlike that in any book I have read. I was turning pages fast to find out how Lyle and Kate would survive.

Bacon handles a complicated story well, giving us realistic characters in bad trouble. By the end of the book, Bacon ties it all up in a satisfying conclusion. Death In Nostalgia City has good characters, a fast-moving story, complicated twists, and a great climax. I hope Bacon is planning to expand this into a series.

Death In Nostalgia City is available in both hard copy and Kindle formats.

Here's the link to the book: Death In Nostalgia City

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